Churches Step in After Feds Defund Fugitive Safe Surrender

Image via Heidi Hall / RNS

The first people that fugitives encountered when they surrendered themselves on a humid September weekend weren’t cops, judges, marshals, or anyone else associated with the criminal justice system.

They were met by a phalanx of smiling, middle-aged church ladies, their vivid blue Galilee Missionary Baptist T-shirts unmistakable under the bright skies, smiling and holding open the door. Two other church volunteers collected belts and keys and sent the visitors through a metal detector.

And then they met Veda Gooch, a Galilee member standing on the other side, quick with a guiding touch on the arm or even a hug if they needed it.

“Y’all here to sign up?” she asked quietly.

Obama Names 18 New Faith-Based Council Advisers

The Rev. Carroll Baltimore. Image via Adelle M. Banks / RNS

President Obama on Sept. 24 announced the names of 18 people who will serve on his third advisory council on faith-based issues.

They include leaders of religious groups and nonprofits — from a former president of a historic black denomination to the head of an anti-hunger group to an executive of a Sikh organization.

Charities Struggle with Hurricane Isaac Cleanup

NEW ORLEANS — Faith-based ministries and local charities that are ramping up relief efforts after Hurricane Isaac say it's already clear that recovery will proceed without the national outpouring of money and volunteers triggered by Hurricane Katrina.

"From our point of view, the biggest challenge with this disaster will be getting attention and money," said Gordon Wadge, president of the New Orleans chapter of Catholic Charities.    

"This is going to be on the local community — with a few national folks who follow us closely and who will rally to us."    

That's a stark contrast to the conditions relief directors saw in 2005, after nationally televised images of human misery from Katrina burned themselves into the national psyche. Within weeks, faith-based ministries and secular relief groups promised to funnel millions of dollars into New Orleans over five years.  

Turning the Tide on AIDS

A palpable feeling of hope and urgency hung heavy in the air of Washington, D.C., this week as thousands of activists descended on the nation’s capital to encourage and inspire colleagues and decision-makers to “turn the tide on AIDS.”

The International AIDS Conference 2012 has returned to the United States, thanks in part to the lifting of the HIV/AIDS travel ban by the Obama Administration in 2010, which followed work from President George W. Bush also to lift the ban.

As part of the Conference, faith leaders from across the world were invited Tuesday morning to a forum hosted by the White House. It was an opportunity to hear from U.S. and international experts and officials, as well as come together as a community of faith, standing up against the stigma and isolation which have been two of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the goal of an AIDS-free generation.

Tuesday’s event centered around two panel discussions — one examining what the faith community uniquely brings to the table in tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the other focusing on the relationship between governments and people of faith in building the effective partnerships needed to tackle it.

The tone of the discussions was, in many ways, extremely positive. We heard about vast improvements in treatments and holistic care, services often administered by faith-based organizations around the world.

“Hope,” as White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Executive Director, Joshua DuBois, noted, is overcoming “fear.”

Join a Circle of Protection on Nov. 16: Standing For and With the Poor

The New York City Human Circle will be replicated throughout across the nation, when faith leaders host Human Circles as members of the Sojourners National Mobilizing Circle, which is bringing together faith and community leaders to organize faith-rooted actions in their communities.

The purpose of these circles is not only to lobby for the poor but also with them.

What Do People of Faith Have To Say About Torture?

In 1998, when former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced June 26 as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, he stated, "This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak up against the unspeakable."

Earlier this month, The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, one of the founders of Torture Awareness Month, as discussed in Robin Kirk's July 2011 Sojourners article, released a video of interreligious leaders speaking against torture, as well as faith-based study guides that frame opposition to torture. Sojourners also asked Robin Kirk, executive director of the Duke Human Rights Center, to write "The Body in Pain: What do people of faith have to say about torture?" for our July issue.

Wanted: 1,000 Pastors For the Poor

We are looking for 1,000 pastors to debunk a myth based on the political assertion that government doesn't have any responsibility to poor people. The myth is that churches and charities alone could take care of the problems of poverty -- especially if we slashed people's taxes. Both this assertion and myth contradict the biblical imperative to hold societies and rulers responsible for how they treat the poor, and ignore the Christian tradition of holding governments accountable to those in need. Faith-based organizations and government have had effective and healthy partnerships, and ultimately, the assertion and myth have more to do with libertarian political ideology, than good theology.