United Church of Christ leaders the Rev. Geoffrey Black and the Rev. Linda Jaramillo joined other Christian leaders Wednesday, Sept. 12, asking for a "circle of protection" around vulnerable people and government programs vital to assisting the poor.
The U.S. Census Bureau released the latest poverty figures on Wednesday, and in response President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney both sent video comments to the Circle of Protection –– a coalition of Christian leaders advocating for the protection of poverty programs –– outlining how they will tackle the problem.
Black, the UCC's general minister and president, and Jaramillo, executive for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, called on people of faith to actively participate in the November elections to "let your voices be heard through your vote," Black said. "As our faith teachings remind us, nations are judged by how they treat the poorest and most vulnerable people."
Jaramillo emphasized the importance of becoming active in the electoral process. One way to accomplish that is to participate in the UCC's Our Faith, Our Vote campaign. "It is not only appropriate, but necessary for faith communities to engage in nonpartisan voter education and empowerment programs," she said.
The Our Faith, Our Vote campaign seeks to engage the faith community in elections through voter registration drives and candidate forums that get to the heart of the issues citizens care about.
According to Wednesday's new poverty figures, there are 42.6 million people in poverty (about 15 percent of the population), including 16.1 percent of children age 5 and younger.
"Our faith calls us to place the poor and most marginalized in our communities at the forefront of concern. Those who struggle economically in our society, the most vulnerable –– children living in poverty, people living with chronic health issues, seniors, women trying to escape violence in their homes –– do not have a voice at the policy-making table or a hand in influencing political campaigns," Black said. "The United Church of Christ has a long history of actively serving the needs of vulnerable populations in our communities and advocating for systemic solutions that lift people out of poverty and uphold the common good."
The Circle of Protection, an ecumenical campaign with the goal of advocating for the protection of poverty programs from proposed congressional cuts, is made up of the leaders of more than 65 denominations, relief and development agencies and other Christian organizations.
One reason the Circle of Protection asked the candidates to submit videos was to act as a voice for the poor, who don't have the support of a super PAC. By raising the issue, faith leaders hope to keep the candidates and government accountable to American citizens.
"Too often society fails to recognize poverty as the root of many of our social concerns," Jaramillo said. "By working to address poverty in our communities, and holding our elected officials accountable to offer systemic solutions to the issue of poverty, we are in fact promoting the common good and strengthening our entire nation."
Editor's Note: The Christian leaders who initiated the "Circle of Protection" asked the two major nominees for president to offer a brief video of how they would seek to overcome poverty as president. The Christian leaders express their thanks to both President Obama and Governor Romney for their positive responses to this request. The leaders also wish to make clear that this effort in no way offers or implies an endorsement of either candidate or the proposals in their statements. Likewise, the participation of President Obama and Governor Romney does not offer or imply an endorsement of the positions taken by the Circle of Protection or its members.