Faith leaders gather to hear about families’ struggles
“If I am not for myself who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am ‘I?’ And if not now, when?”
Rabbi Hillel poses this question and it raises the notion that we must stand up for one another, at all times, or else we run the risk of losing our sense of self and breaching the relationship we have with one another and the rest of God’s creation. That is why a group of clergy and lay people have organized together and are navigating the public arena for the good of our congregants, parishioners, members and the broader community of Southern New Mexico.
On Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral in Las Cruces, over 400 people, 12 congregations and eight religious denominations will gather to hear from one another about the struggles to stabilize their families as they experience unemployment and home foreclosure, and to hear from students who want more opportunities to higher education. We have also invited Governor Susana Martinez, Attorney General Gary King and other officials to witness with us and our families ways to create pathways to jobs, stability and mobility.
Since 2010, with the training and support given through Communities in Action and Faith (CAFé), we have trained over 150 leaders and dozens of clergy to address the concerns and struggles of their communities in a systemic and faith-filled way. As clergy representing eight different religious denominations, we share the same frustration when people come to our doors asking for help to pay utility bills or for gas money and there is no way for us to help people in a significant and sustainable way.
We preach and pray for people to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). In 2009, 5.5 percent of Doña Ana County youth under 18 were arrested – if not now, when? In these times where 18 percent of New Mexico families are paying more than their home is actually worth and some Doña Ana County residents face up to a 13 percent unemployment rate and one in three adults is uninsured – if not now, when?
We know the road is hard and filled with pessimism, challenges and loss, and yet we cannot turn away from this road as people and leaders of faith. Ours is a journey of relationships and issue work that is just beginning, and we invite other faith leaders to join us.
There is a breach of relationship when we allow these realities to exist in our communities and among our neighbors, in our churches, temples and in our pews. As religious leaders we cannot tolerate this breach in humanity and love for one another. There is a breach of relationship when those of us with the ability to speak up fail to use our power to restore dignity and respect to our people in the public square.
We also cannot sustain the growth of our food pantries and our coat drives, or continue to turn people away empty-handed. We need a commitment from all sectors to help New Mexicans thrive and build their ability to provide for their families. We demand the restoration of opportunity to our families across our nation.
The prophet Isaiah details how those who work to house the homeless, free the oppressed and tend to the afflicted will be remembered:
“Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” (Is 58:12)
This commentary was authored by members of the Communities in Action & Faith (CAFé) Clergy Team:
- Fr. Andres Alava, St. Anthony Catholic Church
- Rev. Linda Mervine, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
- Pastor Juan Acevedo, Centro Familiar Cristiano Assembly of God
- Dcn. Emilio Ramos, San Miguel & Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church
- Fr. Vince Petersen, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church
- Rabbi Larry Karol, Temple Beth-El
- Rev. Wayne Hawkins, Iglesia del Pueblo Presbyterian
- Fr. Gabriel Rochelle, St. Anthony of the Desert Orthodox
- Rev. Nancy Anderson, Minister Emerita, Unitarian Universalist of Las Cruces
- Rev. Rod Thompson, Unitarian Universalist of Las Cruces
- Fr. Jim Lehmann, Holy Family Ecumenical Catholic Church
CAFe is part of the PICO National Network, the largest grassroots, faith-based community organization in the country. We are a multi-faith, multi-cultural organization that trains and builds the capacity of low- and moderate-income families to help shape public policies that affect their lives and communities. We are a non-partisan, 501c3 organization and are not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. We do not endorse or support candidates for office. For more information visit OrganizeNM.org.
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