In this Faith in the Valley Justice interview, we feature three Faith In the Valley organizers from different locations across the Central Valley and we explore how to critically engage new and infrequent voters who question the electoral voting process.
Dec. 20, 2018
This post was originally published on the blog from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development. View the original here.
Faith in the Valley (FITV) is a faith-based grassroots community organization in California’s Central Valley, representing over 100,000 families in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties. Our work is led by volunteer leaders who are among the people most impacted by equity gaps and focuses on issue campaigns such as healthy air quality, restorative justice, dignity for all immigrants through just policies, and affordable housing for all. Funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Faith in the Valley empowers its members to work together to transform their communities into places of opportunity.
We believe that a different, better future is possible for the residents of the Central Valley if we work together. A future in which everyone is included, treated as sacred, has a chance to thrive and live a healthy, decent life. A future in which no one is seen as “less than” or lives in fear because of the color of their skin, their legal status, or the amount of money they earn. A future where everyone has access to good jobs, clean air, clean water, alternatives to incarceration, quality healthcare, and safe neighborhoods.
A powerful way we choose to carry out this prophetic vision is to ensure that our democratic process is accessible to the people that are the most impacted by policy decisions. The Catholic bishops of the United States encourage Catholics across our nation to engage in the political process: “The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.” Leaders at Catholic parishes across the Central Valley are living into this holy calling! Striving to be peacemakers of our nation, and as followers of Christ, we are committed to standing up for the dignity of all and seeking the common good of our neighbors through participation in faithful citizenship and civic engagement.
Over the last few months, our leaders engaged in conversations with several political candidates* to ensure that, regardless of political lines, our future elected representatives heard what is important to us as a community of faith. We are confident that the stories shared by the thousands of previously disengaged voters will give us the power to hold our elected leaders accountable to the demands of justice and dignity for all.
Faith in the Valley leaders and community members also knocked on hundreds of doors and made phone calls to those previously disengaged voters, who have oftentimes felt marginalized and unrepresented. We educated them on important propositions around affordable housing, increase in investment for public spaces, and protection of school funding, and encouraged their communities to have their voices heard by voting on November 6th.
Here are some of the highlights and powerful testimonies of some of our leaders:
Maura, from St. Joseph’s Church in Selma, CA, inviting her congregation to pledge to vote as a symbol of holy commitment on October 21, 2018.
“Many of the local measures have the power to directly impact and make an immediate change if we take the time to educate our community and encourage them to vote. I’m involved because I know what has been given to me. I may never know any of them, but I have deep gratitude for the people that advocated for the amnesty laws of 1986, and thanks to the commitment of so many people, I am now a citizen. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward. My faith in God also grounds me. My only son had serious respiratory problems as a baby, to the point of being hospitalized. From then on, it was hard for me to sleep because I was afraid of him choking. I would sit up all night having him in my chest as I pray to God for my child. A year later, my son was diagnosed with asthma and received medication. That was an answered prayer. For all the blessings He’s given me, it’s important that I pray and step into action for others.” –Amador, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Selma, CA (left)
“I volunteered to encourage people to vote because since I am a minor, I cannot vote. So I want to do everything in my power to try and make life better for my community, my family, and myself.” Kazzandra, Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno, CA (back row, left)
Our efforts around the November 2018 midterm election were just one of the many issues Faith in the Valley leaders are organizing their community around. As people of faith, we will continue our commitment to our holy values by standing with the most marginalized and vulnerable in our communities.