The Common Good

Help Put Poverty on the Agenda

Sojomail - June 14, 2006

Quote of the Week : Two perspectives on Guantanamo suicides
Hearts & Minds : Jim Wallis: Help put poverty on the agenda
Action Alert : Tell the G8 to keep its promises on poverty
Verbatim : The man from Haditha
Religion and Society : The World Cup and religion
Sojourners in the News : This week's media round-up
Boomerang : Readers write
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"I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

- Rear Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, commenting on the suicides of three prisoners there. A New York Times editorial reports that there have been 23 suicide attempts in the four years of the camp's existence, and that only 10 of the 465 people held there have been charged with crimes.

"If it's perfectly legal and there's nothing going wrong there - well, why don't they have it in America ... ?"

- Harriet Harman, U.K. constitutional affairs minister, advocating the Guantanamo Bay prison be put under U.S. court supervision or closed. Source: BBC

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Help Give Kids an Outside Chance

John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, wrote that "In God's wildness lies the hope of the world."

The hope of the world can also bring hope to a child. For 35 years, the Sierra Club has introduced underprivileged kids to the joys and wonders of the outdoors through a program called Inner City Outings.

Find out how just one minute of your time can support this valuable program - and help change a kid's life.


Help put poverty on the agenda
by Jim Wallis

I want to personally invite you to come to Washington, D.C., in two weeks to participate in Pentecost 2006: Building A Covenant for a New America. I'm asking you to come because this is not just another conference. Rather it is the first step in a vital campaign aimed at the critical presidential election year of 2008. What is the plan? Nothing less than to put poverty on the national agenda, and to force candidates from both parties to present the nation with their plans for dramatic poverty reduction both at home and globally. Of course, neither party has such a plan now in June 2006. But by 2008, we believe that will change with your help. This time, I believe we can really make a difference; but only if we are all together.

And this conference is the beginning. Why?

First, we are launching "From Poverty to Opportunity: A Covenant for a New America." When you see the covenant, you'll understand what a powerful tool it can be to break the liberal-conservative paralysis on poverty, to transcend the frozen ideological debate that traps the poor between false alternatives, to call the nation to a results-based program, and to move us all to higher ground. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have told me how the Covenant, and the vision it represents, could provide a real breakthrough in Washington, D.C., to shake up politics as usual. But we have to launch the covenant now, long before the 2008 election-year cycle, to present it personally to our members of Congress, and to begin to get its principles into the marketplace of ideas.

Already, political leaders are responding and many are coming to speak at Pentecost, along with an amazing group of church leaders. The chairmen of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee have been invited to come and answer some hard questions from the nation's religious leaders about their poverty-reduction programs. One has already accepted and I'm confident the other will respond soon. We have commitments to speak at Pentecost from leaders of both parties. Where can you find an array of speakers like we will have at Pentecost 2006? Just look at the list of those now confirmed - Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Tony Campolo, Marian Wright Edelman, and Rev. Sharon Watkins. Trust me, you will be inspired. And we all need that these days.

You will also join workshops and seminars with very practical training in how to use the covenant, develop organizing skills, learn to do effective media work, know the issues, deepen your understanding of "prophetic advocacy," and network with other faith-based advocates, especially from your region.

And in its third year now, our Emerging Leaders program for faith-inspired activists younger than 30 may be one of the most exciting offerings of the conference. Here, you will establish relationships that could last a lifetime as we all seek to build a new movement.

Pentecost 2006 is just the first step in a campaign that will last through the 2008 election year season and beyond - don't miss this first critical event.

So vote with your feet. Show up to make a difference. Tell the media by your presence that the faith community cares about much more than just abortion and gay marriage. Tell your political representatives the kind of leadership that you expect from them - we'll set up the appointments for you.

Did you know that Tavis Smiley is doing a town meeting National Public Radio broadcast from our conference - on the Sunday just before we begin the rest of the program? You won't want to miss that.

So do come. And bring some friends. Send this invite to other friends. Bring a delegation from your community or church, or school. Drive if you live a day's drive away or less. Or make your plane reservations today.

I hope to meet you in Washington, D.C., this June. I'll be coming with my wife, Joy Carroll, and our two sons, Luke and Jack (two emerging leaders of my own at 3 and 7). It's not too late to plan to come to D.C. We need you to sign up right away. Make a statement about your faith and its implications. Washington needs to hear from you, and we need your help and support. See you soon!

Jim Wallis, for the whole staff of Sojourners and Call to Renewal

+ Click Here to go to the Pentecost 2006 web site and register today!

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Changing the Face of Hunger

As a member of Congress, Tony Hall was reluctant to wear his faith on his sleeve. But if he was to be true to his faith, he had to find a way to bring God into his political world.

He found his answer in Ethiopia. After visiting, he realized he would travel among the hungry and bring their needs to the attention of Washington.

In Changing the Face of Hunger Tony shares his travels and the issue of hunger worldwide. From the dark corners of a political prison in Romania to barren, famine-stricken Africa, people are suffering and we can help.


Tell the G8 to keep its promises on poverty

Last summer thousands of you joined with us in calling on President Bush to provide bold leadership in the fight against extreme poverty during the G8 Summit in Scotland. While the Summit resulted in promises to cancel 100% of the debt owed by impoverished nations and to double aid to Africa by the year 2010, the G8 nations are dragging their feet.

As the G8 prepares to meet again in St. Peterburg, Russia, from July 15-17 we ask that you join with our friends at Africa Action in raising a prophetic voice calling for greater funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria and for expanding last year's debt deal to the rest of the African continent. Both commitments advance the third major goal of our soon-to-be-launched "From Poverty to Opportunity: A Covenant for a New America" campaign which supports effective aid, transparency and good governance, basic education, health interventions, just trade policies, and debt cancellation in order to prevent the 30,000 child deaths worldwide each day due to poverty and disease.

+ Sign the religious leaders' letter to the G8 on HIV/AIDS and debt

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Bring N.T. Wright, Amy-Jill Levine, John Polkinghorne, Richard Hays, and Other Leading Theologians to Your Church

Life presents us with a lot of hard questions. In this thought-provoking and inspiring video-based course, 10 outstanding theologians address 10 key obstacle-to-faith issues, such as Evil, Religion and Science, Other Religions, Jesus and Christianity, Resurrection, The Gnostic Gospels, The God of the Old Testament, and The Sins of the Church.

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The man from Haditha

"'What happened in Haditha is a huge tragedy, for Haditha and for the United States,' he began. 'I am from Haditha. I know the people, I know the neighborhood. One of my cousins in Haditha was killed by the Marines in Haditha not long before this.' Quiet and well-spoken, Sunni but not sectarian, Sumaidaie seemed ready to hold the Marines accountable not only for the November, 2005, atrocity but for the killing of his cousin and for other deaths in the town.

'The people of Haditha are squeezed between two huge threats,' he said. On the one hand, they face religious-extremist terrorists, 'and on the other hand, there are the Marines, fighting them, shooting, going around killing people.' When he was asked if the revelations about the events of November would make him reevaluate what happened to his cousin, he answered in a steely voice. 'I already know what happened to my cousin,' he said. 'It might help others to reevaluate what happened.'"

- from an interview with Samir al-Sumaidaie, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, on

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Listen Closely ... Can You Hear It? There's a science-and-religion discussion going on around us, affecting our policies, our health, and the way we live our lives. Let Science & Theology News, the monthly publication devoted to the dialogue among science, religion, and health, be your guide. We dissect the biggest topics - such as intelligent design, altruism, mind-body medicine - but also analyze how science and religion interact in places you might not expect, from medical ethics to corporate social responsibility, from popular culture to the dynamics of human relationships. Sign up today for a free four-issue trial


The World Cup and religion
by Tomek Krzyzostaniak

During the World Cup - which began Friday - fans from around the globe show a devotion to the game rivaled for many only by their religious practice.

Soccer has stopped wars - at least temporarily - as during the World War I Christmas Truce and the Biafran war in Nigeria, and soccer has helped spark wars, as between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. If elections are held during the World Cup, as in Mexico, the turnout is affected by the distracted electorate. In Ukraine, the government called on employers not to punish workers who might suddenly claim to be sick during the Ukrainian games. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami won his first presidential election after campaigning with members of the Iranian National Team, a long-standing symbol of the progressive movement in Iran, according to Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World.

The influence of soccer on faith, and faith on soccer, is slightly more antagonistic.

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This week's media round-up

Top story:

Can 'Spiritual Progressives' gain momentum? The Christian Century
About 1,200 people from 39 states attended the May 17-20 gathering, according to conference organizers. Attendees were armed with a "spiritual covenant" and talking points with which to engage elected representatives in the nation's capital. They heard speeches by liberal evangelicals such as Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis, founder of the Sojourners social justice movement.

More Sojourners in the news:

Pro-Life Progressivism The Christian Post

"Religious Left" pushes for policy rooted in compassion The New Mexican

Booked for the Summer: Clergy and scholars share their leisure reading list The Dallas Morning News

"Sojourners in the news" articles are from our archive of news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.

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You're invited: Sojourners Favorite Poem Project: Bring your favorite poem to read aloud or just come enjoy a feast for your ears. June 21, 5:30 p.m. potluck; 6:30 p.m. program. 3333 14th ST. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20010. Call 1-800-714-7474 for information.

Sojourners Job Openings Sojourners seeks qualified applicants for a variety of positions in our growing work to articulate the biblical call for social justice Click here to learn more.


Readers write

Michael Wolfe writes from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka:

David Batstone's use of the word "slavery" in description of the situation in northern Uganda threw me for a loop ["Ending Uganda's cycle of slavery and revenge," SojoMail 6/8/2006]. I lived and worked for one year as an aid worker in northern Uganda. During my time there, there was much discussion amongst the aid workers that northern Uganda is the world's forgotten crisis. I think in recent months there has been more media coverage of the dreadful situation in northern Uganda and I applaud David's recognition that the word "slavery," with all its loaded emotional imagery, is not an overstatement of what has been happening to people in northern Uganda for many years.

Last year when I returned from Uganda to my home in the leafy suburbs, I cried. I had lived and worked the previous year constantly rubbing shoulders with human misery. During my time in Uganda, one of the things that kept us aid workers going was the hope that the situation in northern Uganda would become more known. We thought and hoped that if the outside world could see what we saw, the forgotten crisis would be forgotten no longer. Let us continue with our efforts to raise awareness, to exhort our governments leaders to make just decisions, and to pray that the millions of common people enslaved in misery caused by war will make the individual choice to choose forgiveness.


Micah Stewart writes from New Orleans, Lousiana:

I really appreciate Rev. Wallis' writing on the estate tax ["To protect the common good," SojoMail 5/31/2006]. I am a tax lawyer and I see who the tax affects every day. Any substantial overhaul, let alone repeal, of the estate tax would allow the rich to concentrate their wealth thus creating a larger wealth gap between the rich and the poor, and ultimately causing the extinction of the middle class. Conservatives have convinced farmers and small business owners that they will lose their life's work to the estate tax if it is not repealed; however, they do not point out that the tax code provides a safe harbor for family businesses and farms.


John D. Sens writes from Eden Prairie, Minnesota:

You are wrong when you say, as do many, that the estate tax only "touches" 1.2 percent of estate of people who die. As a lawyer who does some estate planning I understand that few estates actually pay the tax, but many, many people, even those with relatively modest estates often spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to pay for estate planning services including wills and trusts which include various legal devices to avoid the federal estate tax. So sure, few estates may end up paying the tax, but thousand are affected who have to pay lawyers, accountants, and estate planners to avoid the tax. I have paid at least $2,000 myself for my wife and me to establish estate plans to avoid the federal estate tax. There won't be any tax payable, but we have paid through the nose to be sure.


Rev. Dr. Linda Maloney writes from Enosburg Falls, Vermont:

Carol Manson, like so many other Americans, is woefully wrong about the estate tax [Boomerang, SojoMail 6/8/2006]. A $2 million estate belonging to a couple wouldn't even be close to falling subject to estate taxes. In fact, opponents of the estate tax have tried for decades to find a "family farm" that had been lost to estate taxes and, to their chagrin, have never come up with a single case. Under the 2004 law, the surviving spouse pays no estate taxes AT ALL, and property inherited by a single individual other than the spouse bears an exemption of $1.5 million; there is an additional exemption for farm property (according to the IRS) of over $800,000, leaving less than $200,000 of a $2 million farm estate subject to the 48 per cent marginal tax rate. That is why the percentage of Americans paying any estate taxes is so tiny. But because some of the wealthiest people lower their tax liability by giving to charity, the impact of estate tax repeal on churches and charities would be immense.


Phil Anthony writes from Roslyn, Pennsylvania:

Bill Yaccino's article on reaching out to the unchurched to help them marry touched me ["Pastor, Will You Help Us?," SojoMail 6/8/2006]. If Quakers had paid pastors (which they don't in my area) who were licensed by the state to perform marriages (which we aren't as individuals), I'd be strongly inclined to follow his example. I celebrate him.

However, I read the article closely looking for any hint of what I think may be the most important service to couples of any church: taking responsibility not only for the wedding, but for the marriage itself. We far too often feel that our part in the proceedings ceases once the couple has said their vows. I join with Bill Yaccino's view of mission, but devoutly hope that he remains in contact with the couple afterward - not to convert, but to offer a listening ear, a loving heart, a supportive hand, and a continuing prayer as the two engage in the hard work of becoming one flesh.


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