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The Message from Modesto

The front page of the Sunday, June 11, 2017 New York Times had an article Liberals Fighting for Their Faith: Seeking to Break Right’s Grip on Nation’s Moral Agendastating, “… those on the religious left want to turn instead to what they see as truly fundamental biblical imperatives – caring for the poor, welcoming strangers and protecting the earth – and maybe even change some minds about what it means to be a believer.”

“Those in the forefront include blacks and Latinos, women and gays, along with a new wave of activist Catholics inspired by Pope Francis. And they include large contingents of Jews, Muslims and also Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists in some cities — a reflection of the country’s religious diversity.”

PICO National Network has been working for the past year with faith leaders of various traditions across the country to develop a curriculum for clergy called a Theology of Resistance. PICO has federation locations in 22 states and 19 organizations in various California communities.

On February 16-19, 2017 about 700 grassroots, “popular movement leaders” from across the United States and from 12 countries met for the First U.S. Regional Meeting of Popular Movements in Modesto, CA to address how “inalienable rights to decent work, decent housing, and fertile land and food are being undermined, threatened or denied outright.”

They developed the Message from Modesto:

“We believe that every human is sacred with equal claim to safe water, education, health care, housing and family-sustaining jobs. All people are protagonists of their future. We each have a right to be included in the decisions that shape our lives. Our faith leaders and congregations are called to stand with those whose backs are against the wall. We will be remembered not just by the empathy we express but by the actions we take. Our economy is meant to be in service of people not profit. Racism and all forms of human hierarchy, whether based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, arrest and conviction records, immigration status, religion or ethnicity are immoral.

We experience the pain inflicted on people by racial discrimination and economic oppression. The lack of good jobs, affordable housing and clean water and air is literally killing people. Racism is stripping Black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native people of their humanity and fueling police abuse and mass-incarceration, and fueling a crisis of homelessness and displacement. Raids and Trump Administration Executive Orders are scapegoating immigrants and ripping families apart.

We understand that a small elite is growing wealthy and powerful off the suffering of our families. Racism and White Supremacy are America’s original sins. They continue to justify a system of unregulated capitalism that idolizes wealth accumulation over human needs. Yet too often our faith communities and religious leaders fail to heed the mandate to denounce greed and stand with the poor and vulnerable.  The issues we are facing are intertwined and require all of our voices and actions.

They also proposed the following actions:

1. Sanctuary – We urge every faith community… to declare themselves a sanctuary for people facing deportation and those being targeted based on religion, race or political beliefs. Being a sanctuary can include hosting families at-risk of deportation, accompanying people to ICE check-ins, organizing to free people from detention, holding Defend Your Rights trainings and organizing rapid response teams. All cities, counties and states should adopt policies that get ICE out of our schools, courts and jails, stop handing over people to ICE and end practices that criminalize people of color through aggressive policing and over-incarceration.

2. Disrupting oppression and dehumanization – We must put our bodies, money and institutional power at risk to protect our families and communities, using tools that include boycotts, strikes, and non-violent civil disobedience.

3. Bold prophetic leadership from faith communities – At this moment of fear and anxiety, we urge our clergy and faith communities to speak and act boldly in solidarity with our people… sometimes our faith leaders need to walk out in front and show that they are not afraid either… write a covenant that spells out specific actions… to protect families in the areas of immigration, racism, jobs, housing, and the environment.

4. One People, One Fight – We commit to break down the walls that divide our struggles. We will not let corporate and political elites pit us against each other. We are in one fight to rebuild a society in which every person is seen as fully human, has a full voice in the decisions that shape their lives and is able to thrive and reach their human potential.

5. International Week of Action May 1-7, 2017 – We are calling on people in the U.S. and across the globe to stand together against hatred and attacks on families. [This resulted in the Prophetic Resistance Sabbath.]

6. State and regional meetings of popular movements – We propose meetings of popular movements in each of our states over the next six months to bring this statement, the vision of the World Meetings and the Pope’s message of hope and courage to every community in the United States.

7. Popular education – We propose to develop a shared curriculum and popular education program to equip people with analysis and tools to transform the world. We will focus on the development and leadership of young people. We will draw on the wisdom of our faith and cultural traditions… We recognize that our spiritual and political selves are inseparable. We have a moral obligation to confront and disrupt injustice.

8. Political power – To defend our families and protect our values we must build political power. We must change the electorate to reflect our communities, through massive efforts to reach out to tens of millions of voters who are ignored and taken for granted by candidates and parties. We must hold elected officials accountable to the common good and encourage people in our communities to take leadership themselves, including running for office, so that we can govern the communities in which we live.”

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture.” ~ Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination

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