“It’s a big task, but please don’t give up on it.”
Last night, members of the various faith communities in London gathered for the Rally to End Poverty, an event organized by the Multi-Faith Social Action Coalition of London in response to the Mayor’s Panel on Poverty. In attendance were leaders and members of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths; Mayor Matt Brown and Deputy Mayor Maureen Cassidy; and Glen Pearson, Dr. Chris Mackie, and Andrew Lockie who are all members of the Mayor’s Panel on Poverty. These community leaders were joined by over a hundred members of the London community at large who all came together with the common interest to see an end to poverty in our community. The event was filled with wonderful music by local talent, and featured talks from leaders of each faith community represented presenting a different perspective on poverty and our role as communities and individuals to play a role in ending poverty.
The LPRC played an active role in promoting the event, along with many of the other poverty-related organizations in the community. As these things do, the event got some questions flowing on social media as to whether rallies such as this can actually “end poverty”. Today, we still have poverty in our community, so the rally did not end poverty last night, but it did accomplish a lot in delivering the messages that are necessary to hear as we those in attendance reinforced our commitment to work towards community change.
It reinforced the importance of a common bond and understanding.
For this event, members of faith and religious communities, communities that were built on people choosing to identify as a particular faith in order to feel a sense of conformity on their experiences and beliefs, came together with one common bond and one common understanding – they all wanted to see an end to poverty in our community. This event, the perspectives shared, and the common understanding of what they were working towards created a bridge between differences. These bridges are what are required to move any common issue forward, and this was a fantastic demonstration and modeling of the need to build cohesiveness as we work towards ending poverty in our community.
It was a gathering of leaders who had community support.
The size and capacity of the faith communities in London cannot be underestimated. Those who represented the different faith communities in London also had the support of their congregations behind them as they shared perspectives on their role as faith communities in strategies to end poverty. Last night’s panel represented what community based researchers identify as “organic intellectuals” – individuals who can understand and interpret from an insider’s perspective both the “what” and the “why” of community members’ perspectives – and bring them to the larger table and larger conversation. Each faith leader has a familiar understanding not only of those in their congregations, but the vulnerable persons those who approach them for help. These perspectives – on the ground perspectives – is what fueled these faith leaders in the perspectives they shared about individual and collective responsibility as important food for thought for those in attendance.
It was a call to action.
The rally was organized around the Mayor’s Panel on Poverty, and the long yet incredibly important process of collecting community input into the recommendations the Panel will soon finalize. While the event was focused on the talks and the music, it was all underscored by the tremendous opportunity we all have to provide our individual and collective input to the Mayor’s Panel on Poverty Draft Recommendations. We have this opportunity in front of us and it was the work of this rally to empower us to understand the significance of that.
Did last night’s rally end poverty? Those in attendance can’t claim that it did, but it did help in the journey to end poverty by sharing important perspectives, showing common bond and understanding between different groups, and calling us to action by highlighting some of the ways we can all create change in our community.
(The LPRC is working to get some of the transcriptions of the talks from the event in order to further share some of the perspectives put forth during the event)
For more reading…
Born, P. (2014). Deepening Community: Finding joy together in chaotic times. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Stoecker, R. (2012). Research methods for community change: A project-based approach. Sage publications.
News coverage of the event can be found here on CTV (after the 3:40 mark)