Over 70 Faith Leaders March and Pray in Washington to End Shutdown

October 15, 2013

Pilgrimage with poor workers ratchets up moral pressure as shutdown harms low-income families, seniors, and veterans

-October 15, 2013 -

WASHINGTON – Today, over 70 prominent religious leaders joined with locked-out federal workers in a pilgrimage, marched on key House offices – including Leadership – and urged an immediate end to the government shutdown. At each office, the group prayed for the Member to do what is right and vote to immediately end the shutdown with a clean and unconditional continuing resolution and to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.

During the Pilgrimage, faith leaders invited moderate Republicans to join them in challenging their colleagues who are putting political agendas ahead of the common good.

As religious leaders stopped to pray at the office of U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), the congressman released a statement titled, “Show Humility and Start Governing,” that the congressman delivered earlier on the House floor.  The statement affirms that “The Congress and the president have been entrusted with much, namely the responsibility to govern this country. The American people rightly expect us, regardless of party affiliation, to come together, especially during times of crisis, and find ways to get things done.  They are understandably fed up with this current dysfunction, and I am, too.” The congressman’s spokesperson noted that Rep. Wolf would support a clean and unconditional continuing resolution to open the government and to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.

“As a Virginian, I am proud of Congressman Wolf’s bold leadership to call upon his colleagues to show humility and start governing.  He is an example of what we need more of in this current Congress,” said Douglas Grace, director of Ecumenical Advocacy Days and a participant in today’s faith leader pilgrimage.

An extreme faction of Congress is recklessly playing politics with the lives of countless Americans: seniors seeing “Meals on Wheels” cut, pregnant women and infants losing vital nutrition support, workers locked out of their jobs as bills pile up, veterans facing benefit cuts, and communities put in peril by the suspension of crucial environmental protection efforts.

“It’s time for irresponsible factions in Congress to stop this reckless behavior and end this shutdown immediately,” said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A Catholic Social Justice Lobby. “There is no moral justification for holding struggling families, pregnant women and seniors hostage.”

The marchers also included low-wage workers locked out of their jobs by the shutdown.

“Before the shutdown, I was struggling to support my unemployed father and little sister,” said Alex Vesquez, a contract food worker at the Smithsonian. “Now I’ve gone from low wages to no wages. Tea Party Republicans need to stop these political games and let me get back to work.”

At each office the group prayed for the Member and left a letter endorsed by leading U.S. religious organizations, saying , “As people of faith and conscience, we urge you to place shared democratic values above short term political expediency, exercise the courage to fund our nation’s government,  raise the debt limit without preconditions and get back to work on a faithful budget that serves the common good.”

Faith leaders had a clear moral message for the Members of Congress.

“Locking low-income workers out of their jobs and holding them for ransom is simply un-Christian. This inflicts needless pain on families already struggling to make ends meet,” said Rev. Michael Livingston, Policy Director at Interfaith Worker Justice and former President of the the National Council of Churches. “We’re urging the members of Congress responsible for this hardship to vote now to put these workers back in their jobs.”

Participants in the march included leaders from Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice, Church World Service, National Council of Churches, Franciscan Action Network, NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, The Salvation Army, Interfaith Worker Justice, Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Washington Office, The Shalom Center, Faith in Public Life, American Friends Service Committee, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ), Disciples Justice Action Network (Disciples of Christ), Disciples Home Missions, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church GBCS, Unitarian Universalist Association, and The Coalition on Human Needs.

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Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the ecumenical Christian community, and its recognized partners and allies, grounded in biblical witness and our shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation. Through a high-impact national gathering weekend, EAD’s goal is to strengthen the Christian voice and to mobilize for advocacy on specific U.S. domestic and international policy issues.

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