‘Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration’ kicks off weekend advocacy effort
Justice leaders of the United Church of Christ are part of an ecumenical community that believes people of faith bring important perspectives to the conversation about criminal justice advocacy. To help organize and educate the faithful interested in criminal justice issues, the UCC Justice and Witness Ministries is partnering with a Washington, D.C., congregation for a one-day conference calling for a more humane justice system that reflects Christian values of forgiveness, fairness, repentance and justice.
That gathering convenes on Friday, April 17, at First Congregational Church in the nation’s capital—right before the weekend Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which will also look at issues of mass incarceration.
“A Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration” will be an opportunity to explore some intersections of issues related to mass incarceration and the criminal justice system, to envision possibilities for organizing and connecting UCC advocacy efforts related to criminal justice reform, and a time for sharing best practices and developing a roadmap for future advocacy efforts at a time that activists say is critical for change.
“Many factors have brought us to where we are with regard to our criminal justice system, and this conference will be just a step in what we hope is an ongoing conversation and advocacy effort for a more just, humane criminal justice system,” said Sandy Sorensen, director of the Justice and Witness Ministries office in Washington, D.C. “We will be looking at the intersections of criminal justice and issues of racial justice, economic justice, health care, and education, among others.”
The conference serves as a springboard to Ecumenical Advocacy Days (April 17-20), a yearly gathering and movement of the ecumenical Christian community that collectively advocates on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues. The 13th Ecumenical Advocacy Days will bring together more than 1,000 Christians from some 50 faith communities and ecumenical organizations to examine a prison-industrial system that incarcerates millions of people in the U.S. and abroad.
Barbara Baylor, UCC policy advocate for domestic issues and the point person for “A Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration,” said, “People of faith are present in all dimensions of the criminal justice system—as those incarcerated and their families, as law enforcement and judicial personnel, as victims and their families, as chaplains and social service providers and communities. Whether on a personal or societal level, we are impacted by the consequences of our current criminal justice system and the growth of the incarceration rate in the United States.”
Added Sorensen, “As people of faith, we bring critical spiritual resources to the dialogue about criminal justice reform, in our understandings of justice, healing, restoration, reconciliation, redemption and transformation. The United Church of Christ brings a long history of General Synod witness, service and advocacy related to the criminal justice system.”
Participants will hear from a mix of speakers at the First Congregational gathering, and there will be time for dialogue and action planning.
“We hope to share best practices and opportunities for faith engagement with each other, as well as identify and build a network of criminal justice advocates that allows us to continue this engagement going forward,” Sorensen said.
There is no registration fee, but interested participants are encouraged to RSVP online or by contacting Baylor.
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