By Jennifer Williams, Disciples Peace Fellowship intern
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing homeless children.”– Isaiah 10:1-2
As I scroll down my Facebook news feed, an ad comes up for the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Gathering. This event is taking place on Saturday, June 20, 2020 but there is much to do in anticipation of a world-wide event, much to learn and much to know.
The Poor People’s Campaign is leading the charge with their 12 core principles rooted in justice and moral analysis based on deep religious and constitutional values. Last fall a “Souls of Poor Folk” study was released that shows the ways race, economics and other factors impact people. The aim of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is to shift the moral narrative that blames poor people for their poverty, the oppressed for their weariness, the marginalized for their persecution and pits us against each other rather than uniting us to promote desired peace, justice, love, harmony, and fullness. This organization aims to build the power and unity of people from the ground up or (maybe more appropriately for the times) the screen forward.
Included in the campaign are labor unions; denominational, ecumenical and interfaith organizations; fraternal groups; LGBTQI rights groups; women’s organizations; groups protecting children; and anti-poverty organizations as well. There is hope in the way these many concerns have coalesced into a movement. The 2017 General Assembly adopted a resolution to support the effort.
And speaking of a time to be in. Amidst a global pandemic, the work of this organization has not gotten any easier. With the coronavirus disproportionally affecting poorer, minority communities, the pressure and urgency for change has increased. To tackle the issues, many nonviolent civil disobedience events have and are taking place led by co-chairs Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Today’s Poor People’s Campaign is founded on inspiration from the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign of Rev. Dr. King and others, but “it also sees its roots in the Poor People’s Campaign that Jesus led in ancient Israel 2,000 years ago” as stated in a sermon by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. Repairers of the Breach and the Kairos Center are key partners in connecting the many strands of activism.
This is a prime example of an organization continuing the Lord’s work into modern day society. They are bringing justice and sight into a blinded world. Issues that have recently been tackled include confronting the interlocking evils of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism. It takes powerful people to give power. The powerful members of the Poor People’s Campaign are broadening their efforts, combining together and not staying silent, speaking WITH the poor and lifting up the voices of those impacted. That requires movement of spirit, of mind, and of body (well, maybe fingers).
You can learn more about this digital gathering and how to join the movement at https://www.june2020.org/ . You can also find out more about the situation in your United States context with fact sheets available on each state.
Now is the time to rise and campaign for justice. This is our charge. Jesus came to bring good news to the labored, the marginalized, the tired and weary and, as we know well, the poor.