The Common Good

14 Faith Leaders To Watch In 2014

Date: March 12, 2014

Last year was an exciting time for faith-based movements for social justice, with religious leaders and organizations making headlines for spearheading robust local and national campaigns around issues such as gun violence, economic inequality, and immigration, among many others.
The efforts of faith-based advocates were formidable, calling thousands of people across the country to action and attracting the attention of President Barack Obama. From fasts for immigration reform to vigils for gun-violence victims, people of faith brought a powerful moral voice to our nation’s most pressing problems. Their efforts faced fierce opposition from well-funded and well-organized conservative opponents who fought back by blocking votes in Congress for universal background checks for gun purchases and thwarting efforts to pass immigration reform…
3. The “Fast for Families” participants mobilize on behalf of immigration reform legislation. Of the various faith-led protests for immigration reform in 2013, few garnered as much attention as the “Fast for Families” campaign. Organized as a partnership between labor groups, religious organizations, and immigration advocates, a rotating band of participants fasted for weeks in a tent on the National Mall to pressure the House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Led by the storied labor organizer Eliseo Medina, fasters hailed from a variety of professions and backgrounds and included several undocumented immigrants and DREAMers. But organizers also listed a fair number of high-profile religious leaders as participants, such as Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK; Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
The fasters and their tent attracted widespread media attention, sparking solidarity fasts from groups all over the country and visits from prominent musicians such as Peter Yarrow and politicians such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michele Obama, and President Obama.
Although the House of Representatives failed to act on immigration reform last year, discussions around how to address the issue are continuing on Capitol Hill. The Fast for Families campaign is recharging as well, embarking on an ambitious cross-country bus tour to more than 100 congressional districts in the next several months as advocates press for an immigration system that provides a viable pathway to citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.