Work still needed to create whole, healthy society, free of exclusion

| Kathy Tomlin | February 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

Forty short years ago, the Office of Urban Affairs, precursor to the  Catholic Charities’ Office for Social  Justice, was born.

The office was a necessary res­ponse by the church to the social, economic and racial unrest of the 1960s and 1970s. But the efforts of this one office were not enough.

After forming this ministry in the archdiocese, Father Ed Flahavan, director, proposed that the Cath­o­lic, Christian and Jewish com­munities work together to provide leadership to make Minnesota a more just and racially inclusive place to live.

This interfaith connection evolv­ed into the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. Recently, its sponsorship was broadened to include members from the Islamic tradition. There is no other statewide effort that is as large and as inclusive of all four Abrahamic faith traditions as JRLC is in the entire nation.

Although faith groups may differ on issues over time, there is a shared set of values upon which we have agreement: inherent human dignity, justice, democratic participation, spirituality of dialogue, prophetic leadership, leadership development, action and credibility.

This group, supported by the Minnesota Catholic Con­fer­ence, Minnesota Council of Churches, Jewish Community Relations Council and Islamic Center of Minnesota, decided that these values would be guideposts to inform our advocacy and unite us on the issues with which we could agree as a common agenda.

More work needed

As we move further into this next decade, it strikes me that, while we have made progress over the last 40 years, there is still much work to be done. There are new problems, perhaps, but there are also new chapters directly related to the issues that first brought us together.

In the 1960s, African Americans were angry at being ex­clu­ded from jobs, housing and meaningful participation. Even the whites who sympathiz­ed with their sisters and brothers had a hard time knowing how to undo a system that guaranteed them privileges.

Neighborhoods were red-lined, as banks, realtors and insurance companies attempted to keep racial communities separate and educational, housing and economic op­por­tunity from being more widely enjoyed.

The con­sequences of that exclusion are still profoundly a part of our communities. There may be no cross burnings or neigh­borhoods raging in fire and anger, but the effects of our written and unwritten rules and policies keep us from being a more whole and healthy society.

Significant racial disparities con­tinue to exist in health care, education, em­ploy­ment and housing, to name a few. Community leaders, such as JRLC, continue to search for new solutions, opportunities and in­no­vative ways to close the gap.

Please join JRLC for the Day on the Hill (see the boxed notice).

Kathy Tomlin is director of the Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice.

Day on the Hill

Discuss legislation and meet with representatives.

» When: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17.

» Where: RiverCentre for keynote talk before participants leave for lunch, meetings at the State Capitol.

Register at

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Category: Faith and Justice