WASHINGTON – April 20, 2016 – Nearly 1,000 Christian and other faith-based advocates raised their voices for justice this past weekend, in the midst of a critical election year, with a focus on pending voting rights legislation and a trade agreement pending in Congress. The 14th Annual National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice with its Congressional Advocacy Day was held in Washington, D.C. from April 15-18, 2016, and was entitled, “Lift Every Voice! Racism, Class and Power.”
“During this year’s EAD National Gathering and Congressional Advocacy Day, people of faith spoke truth to power concerning the suppression of political and economic rights, and the corporate undermining of the local voice of ordinary people in the U.S. and around the world,” said Douglas Grace, M.Div., S.T.M., Executive Director of EAD. “Through prayer, worship, advocacy training, networking and mobilization with other Christians, we faced the realities of racism, class and power impacting politics and policies and advocated for the liberty of ‘Every Voice.'”
Together, advocates were inspired by dynamic preachers of the Gospel, including Rev. Dr. William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP and convener of the Forward Together Moral Movement, and Rev. Amy Gopp, Vice President of External Relations for IMA World Health. Participants learned about the enmeshed issues surrounding discriminatory polices and practices related to race, class exploitation, as well as voter and other human rights suppression in the United States and throughout the world. Keynote speakers on policy issues included Ashindi Maxton, an independent strategist in democracy reform, racial justice and education, as well as Sandy Sorenson and Rev. Michael Neuroth of the Justice and Witness Ministries of The United Church of Christ.
A lunch plenary on Saturday featured a keynote address by world-renowned child advocate Marian Wright Edelman on the “The Cradle to Prison Pipeline” affecting so many poor families in the United States and other nations. An international plenary on Sunday highlighted “People Power Around the World” and included activists from the Middle East, the Philippines, Peru, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. In addition, over 60 workshops reflecting on global issues of justice related to the EAD theme, as well as advocacy skills training, were held over the three-day gathering. (View information on EAD’s 2016 plenary speakers and preachers.)
Opportunities for networking by denomination and by state and local regions allowed advocates to be briefed on the EAD’s 2016 Congressional Advocacy Ask, which focused on efforts to restore key protections of the Voting Rights Act recently invalidated by a decision of the Supreme Court, and to oppose the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in Congress due to significant issues regarding economic injustice and environmental considerations which remain unaddressed in the current agreement.
Grace provided a theological context for the National Gathering and the legislative activity: “As Christians, we believe that leaders and policy makers are called to act and to govern in fairness and with justice for all. Like the persistent widow of the Gospel who demands that the judge hear her plea (Luke 18:1-8), at EAD 2016, we brought our petitions for justice to Capitol Hill. Like the persistent widow, we are not silenced.”
The event concluded Monday, April 18, as the advocates moved from their conference location to Capitol Hill to join in prayer at a vigil held on the lawn of the Capitol to various meetings with Senators and Members of Congress throughout the day. They were supported in their visits with a coordinated call-in to Congressional offices from remote advocates who joined their voices in the calls for justice.
Photos from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the National Gathering are now available, along with photos of EAD’s Monday Lobby Day. Videos of the plenary speakers and panels, as well as the celebration and worship services will be added in the coming days and weeks, along with other written resources from the event.