Combating Poverty: Faithful Citizenship Campaign

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Faithful Citizenship campaign calls on Wisconsin to commit to cutting child poverty in half.

Two years of dialogue across the state among religious leaders, congregants, and policy experts have led to a consensus that poverty in Wisconsin is a moral crisis that demands action.

Since 2014, Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and Citizen Action Education Fund have sponsored a series of “Faithful Citizenship” conversations on poverty.  Out of these emerged a bold, but attainable, goal that every person in Wisconsin is invited to endorse:

The people of Wisconsin need to set a goal of cutting childhood poverty in half in the next ten years. To guarantee greater equity, we also need to cut racial disparities in childhood poverty in half. These goals need to be accompanied by a commitment to evidence-based evaluation of progress.

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The focus on child poverty is due to the fact that children are the poorest segment of society. Racial disparities in poverty are bigger in Wisconsin than in the US as a whole, so any efforts to reduce childhood poverty overall need to reduce those as well. The negative consequences of childhood poverty and racial disparities on a child’s health, development, and life prospects can persist into adulthood and future generations, affecting the vitality and productivity of the whole community.

In the course of the forums,  an interfaith theological statement and a policy statement were developed, giving the religious and moral reasons for committing our state to this goal.

Discuss the goal and statements in your congregation or with a group of congregations:

Hold an adult forum on the statements:

Invite members of your congregation to endorse the child poverty reduction goal:

Make a presentation to your congregation or community group:

micah+6+8+copyFaithful Citizenship’s theological statement grounds the campaign and its goal in the teachings of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith communities that all human beings are created in the image of God, for life in community, and that God’s abundant gifts are to be shared.  When we fail to love our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, God calls us to repentance and draws us forward with the vision of a world of justice, dignity, and well-being for all.

At the same time, the statement recognizes that many different faiths and philosophies share the goal of reducing poverty, and invites all people of  goodwill to join in a broad public dialogue about the concrete ways to achieve the campaign’s goal of cutting childhood poverty in half.  The purpose of the statement is to affirm the commitment of these faith communities to begin the conversation in their own congregations and to inspire policymakers and other stakeholders to commit to the same goal.

o-WOMEN-POVERTY-facebookToo often, anti-poverty policy choices are driven by ideological preferences.  Instead, policies must be evaluated by whether they result in measurable progress toward the goal.  We need to find common ground, adopt evidence-based solutions, and hold ourselves accountable for concrete outcomes. Part of the inspiration for this project comes from the success of United Kingdom’s efforts over the past two decades to dramatically reduce child poverty.

Working to cut child poverty in half is a shared responsibility.  Charitable individuals and organizations, business, government, and faith-based organizations must each do their part.  Moreover, this work must be done in partnerships between those experiencing racial disparities and those living with greater abundance and privilege if it is to succeed.

2828669-md (3)We invite you to join this conversation and campaign.  The Council offers resources, including one- and two-session discussion guides (with a PDF slideshow) for the theology statement and policy paper. Engage your congregation in exploring the issues of poverty and racial disparities, and how your faith community can help create a brighter future for all our children!

Additional Resources for Congregations

More resources to help you plan activities in your congregation and community to increase understanding and advocacy to combat poverty.

 Materials from Past Forums

2014 Forums (Appleton, Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee, Stevens Point) – 2014 statement, “Faithful Citizenship: Responding to the Scandal of Poverty in Wisconsin,” plus media stories about the forums and the statement

2015 Forums (Door County, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Oak Creek, Wausau, Whitefish Bay) –  Overview of Poverty in Wisconsin (regionally-specific PDF slideshows) and videos of theological reflections on Poverty & Responsibility

 

 

 

 

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