It was quite a busy year for the policy team at Sojourners, and we can already hear the challenges and opportunities of 2009 calling for our attention. But during this season of reflection, we want to thank you for what you helped accomplish. Together, we lifted up the biblical call to social justice to our political and business leaders, the church, and our local communities.
Collectively, you sent around 100,000 messages to our leaders! We hope you are inspired and motivated by this quick review of 2008:
Poverty and Our National Values
The Vote Out Poverty campaign framed our work, turning the nation's attention to people living in poverty in our nation and around the world. Sojourners trained 300 activists who formed teams in their churches and communities to make sure the crisis of poverty was not forgotten during our marathon election season. Through their efforts and yours, we saw:
- 25,000 people sign the Vote Out Poverty pledge, including congressional candidates and President-elect Obama and future Secretary of State Clinton.
- Churches in 20 states host "Poverty Sundays," focusing on the crisis of poverty through a special worship service.
- More than 200,000 "Vote All Your Values" issue guides downloaded before the election.
In the spring, we joined President Bush in asking Congress for smarter food aid in the U.S. Farm Bill by purchasing our international relief provisions from local, poor farmers instead of shipping them from the United States. While short of a full victory, a pilot project was signed into the law. We turned our attention to international health care over the summer when we pressured seven senators to drop their opposition to the Global AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Bill. Thanks to your efforts, this life-saving legislation passed.
Immigration and Workers Rights
We continued our partnership alongside the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. With the help of your letters, Burger King signed an agreement to pay a 71 percent increase to Florida tomato pickers. This month Subway signed a similar agreement. Stay tuned -- CIW is now turning its attention to Chipotle and Wal-Mart, and they may need our help.
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a coalition convened by Sojourners, held clergy trainings and media events in North Carolina, Minnesota, Florida, New Jersey, Arizona, and Colorado, teaching and training clergy around the biblical call to "welcome the stranger." Sojourners also published a new study guide on immigration, Strangers in the Land, that is available for purchase at our SojoStore.
We launched a new local initiative, Justice Revivals, in Columbus, Ohio, last April. The event links spiritual renewal with social justice, uniting local churches in the fight against poverty in their cities. A total of 10,000 people participated from 40 different denominations and traditions, 100 people made commitments to follow Christ, 300 signed up to be school mentors, and 2,000 people served in the streets. After a Justice Revival meeting with clergy, the Ohio governor created an Anti-Poverty Task Force and gave the faith community a key voice on the team. Sojourners plans to hold a Justice Revival in Dallas next fall.
Peace and Security
On a more somber note, violence continues in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Congo, Zimbabwe, Darfur, Colombia, and many other regions in the world. More than 20,000 of you sent messages that supported peace talks in the Holy Land and called for "words, not war" between the U.S., Iran, and Israel. More than 27,000 of you joined our call to lament and repent for the Iraq War. While we see some political progress in this arena, peace cannot come soon enough. We will continue to pray for these conflicts and call for a peaceful resolution.
Early predictions indicate as many as 10 million more Americans will fall into poverty during this recession, so our witness is more important than ever. To keep our voice strong, Sojourners is hosting The Mobilization to End Poverty, April 26-29. With thousands of Christians standing together, we will advocate to Congress and President Obama for real policy solutions to poverty.
In this Christmas season we are reminded once again that as we work for change, our true source of hope remains in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. We wish you a peaceful and reflective Advent season, a very Merry Christmas, and a blessed New Year.
Grateful for your actions, prayers, and support,
Aaron, Adam, Allison, Duane, Elizabeth, Gini, Jenn, Kevin, and Nate
The Policy and Outreach Team at Sojourners