The Common Good

Activists fighting poverty see more hospitable political times

Date: April 29, 2009

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- With videotaped greetings from President Barack Obama and a panel discussion by senior White House staffers highlighting the first full day of the Mobilization to End Poverty conference April 27, it was clear the political climate had shifted for the faith-motivated campaign. The effort that started with getting churches to organize in fighting poverty has picked up great momentum since the first such gathering in 1996, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, president and CEO of Sojourners, the network of churches and faith-based organizations that was the prime sponsor of the event. What Rev. Wallis started as an interfaith movement to bring attention to poverty, named Call to Renewal, has grown from that first meeting of dozens of people in a Washington church to the 1,100 who registered for the Mobilization to End Poverty conference, held at the Washington Convention Center. "Sometimes I pinch myself, because poverty is now on the agenda of the churches," Rev. Wallis said in a plenary session opening the event. Fighting malaria, HIV and AIDS, and hunger on a global scale also have become targets of the efforts among a wide range of churches, he said. "And now, we have a president and a Congress who want to make a change," he continued.