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Washington, D.C. – The Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC) and faith leaders from across the United States are holding a virtual 12-hour prayer vigil today to urge Members of Congress to pass a robust COVID relief bill that helps families before leaving Washington, D.C. for the elections. The vigil is being live streamed on the Facebook pages of Friends Committee on National Legislation and Bread for the World.
The vigil began at 7:00 a.m. ET today and will end with a closing ceremony at 6:00 p.m. ET. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the vigil this morning. Other Members of Congress, including Republican leadership, have been invited to participate.
As Members of Congress plan their departures from the nation’s capital, Americans continue to struggle to retain jobs during the global pandemic. The U.S. has now surpassed the sobering loss of more than 200,000 lives due to COVID. Millions are unemployed. People across the country are struggling to pay rent and feed their families. Faith leaders from across the U.S. representing a broad array of religious beliefs and faith traditions will come together in prayer and to call on Congress to pass a desperately needed robust COVID relief bill.
The HEROS Act, the last COVID relief bill, was passed in May. Since that time Congress and the White House have failed to come to agreement on another bill to help families who are struggling from the economic fallout from COVID. According to recent reports, 1 in 3 families with children in the U.S. do not have enough food to eat, with nearly 40 percent of Black and Latino families with children struggling to put food on the table. Worldwide, more than 270 million people are on the brink of starvation. WISC is calling on Congress and the White House to act now because #FamiliesCantWait.
The Lead organizers of the vigil are Bread for the World, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. Other participants include the National Council of Churches, The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, Islamic Relief USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Church World Service, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Faithful Democracy, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance.
Quotes from Faith Leaders:
Rev. Eugene Cho, President and CEO, Bread for the World: “We are in the midst of an unprecedented epidemic that has also become a hunger crisis. Tens of millions of people in the United States are unable to feed their families. The impact is falling especially hard on Black and Brown families, as well as immigrant families. Globally, the situation is even more dire as 270 million people stand on the brink of starvation. God calls on us to care for our neighbors in need. Congress and the White House must act and pass a meaningful relief bill that keeps families out of hunger.”
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service: “It’s shocking that President Trump and Congress have delayed in providing needed relief for suffering Americans and a vital economic stimulus for the U.S. economy. The House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act, but the Senate majority remains unresponsive. American compassion should also extend to our impoverished neighbors around the world, facing a catastrophic food crisis because of COVID-19. I urge President Trump and Congressional leadership to reach an agreement immediately on robust domestic and international supplementary Coronavirus aid.”
Diane Randall, General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers): “The United States has lost more than 200,000 to COVID, and the world is on the verge of surpassing one million dead. If these two numbers are not enough to get the Congress – specifically the Senate – to pass COVID relief and now, what will? Unfortunately, the fact that our leaders in Washington are ignoring COVID does not mean COVID is ignoring us. Until we confront this virus head-on with the seriousness it deserves, we will continue to slowly pay the price in lives and economic stability.”
Sharif Aly, Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief USA: “Covid-19 has significantly changed our way of life during the past several months. The way we work, the way we interact, the way we travel, the list goes on. More than 200,000 people in the United States have succumbed to this pernicious disease, and it continues to remain a severe threat throughout the world. Throughout this time, Islamic Relief USA has remained committed to its mission of helping, and uplifting the most vulnerable populations here and around the world, helping them forge a path to self-determination and tiding them over rough patches. As tumultuous a time as this has been, we believe the experiences stemming from the pandemic could serve as a time of reflection and restoration of our strongest values. We need to put our differences aside and unite to achieve only one goal: to serve humanity. If we all pull together and aspire toward that, we will overcome the current hardships and prevail. Jazak Allah Khair!”
Carol Zinn, SSJ, Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious: “As women of faith we urge members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to focus on the common good and to immediately pass a robust COVID-19 relief bill that addresses the suffering of our people, especially those most in need. Every day that passes more and more children go hungry, seniors are made homeless, parents lose their livelihoods and families face economic disaster. Our faith teaches us that a basic moral test for society is measuring how we treat the most vulnerable in our midst. The wellbeing of our neighbors is not a partisan issue that can be ignored or postponed until after the November election; we need relief now.”
Susan Gunn, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns: “Just as a virus knows no borders, neither should our response. The poor countries where Maryknoll missioners live are sinking under the weight of the coronavirus. If we don’t provide foreign aid now, the United States will sink with them. It will make it more difficult to contain the pathogen; it will make any type of economic recovery harder, and it will intensify the political instability and human suffering that have contributed to high levels of migration in recent years. The vast majority of Americans agree that foreign assistance to fight disease makes us all safer. Please listen and take action now.”
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice: "We mourn the deaths of over 200,000 Americans and believe it is immoral that the Administration still does not have a federal testing and treatment plan. The House passed the HEROES Act months ago, which provides the robust protections families and communities need. Senator McConnell ignores the needs of our people. Instead he is playing crass partisan politics rushing to push a Supreme Court Justice nominee through the Senate during the 2020 election. This November, voters have a choice. We must elect leaders who understand the pain of our people and are committed to working for real solutions."
Lawrence E. Couch, Director of the National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd: "Regrettably, we are not done with COVID and it is not done with us. We cannot put our heads in the sand and wish these health care, economic and social justice crises away. The Senate must do its job and pass robust COVID Relief legislation to lift up the lives of people who are suffering greatly through no fault of their own."
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