In Tucson, Arizona, work at Pima County Interfaith began advocating for pandemic relief as the pandemic hit, seeing it as a natural outgrowth of its grassroots work.
Ana Chavarin, an organizer with the Catholic Campaign for Human Development-funded organization, said its community leaders quickly advocated for rental assistance for people threatened with eviction. And, after weeks of activism, members were able to convince health care providers to bring vaccines to some of the most vulnerable communities Feb. 6.
She credited local leaders for their work in neighborhoods, parishes and church congregations. She said the effort is rooted in church teaching on solidarity and recognizing the dignity of each person....
Chavarin recalled that when coronavirus testing began in Tucson, the site was established far from low-income communities. For people with a vehicle, the trip would take 40 minutes. However, for poor residents it required riding on multiple buses on a trek that took several hours in each direction.
To prevent such inequities, Chavarin urged collaboration among low-, middle- and upper-income residents to develop solutions to community challenges. While such conversations might currently be pertinent during the pandemic, they could also lead to meetings on environmental issues, jobs and education, she said.
She cited the letter to the Corinthians for inspiration in understanding the importance of building such relationships: "When one part of the body is hurting, then the whole body is hurting."
"We need to understand," Chavarin said, "that we are one body in need of creating those connections and having those conversations to talk about specific goals."
[Photo Credit: Eloisa Lopez, Catholic News Service / Reuters]
To Overcome Economic Disparities, Turn to Papal Encyclicals, Panelists Say, National Catholic Reporter [pdf]
Thousands of Arizonans could lose their homes in January after the CDC’s eviction moratorium expires at the end of the year. Rabbi John Linder with the Arizona Interfaith Network, along with leaders from the local Episcopal, Catholic and Presbyterian community, called on Gov. Ducey and the state’s elected leaders to impose an eviction moratorium in Arizona.
"This is not just a public health issue, this is a moral issue," Linder said. "So we gather today as leaders of communities of faith to call on our elected officials to meet the gravity of the moment. If a vaccine can be created in record time, we can work collectively to keep the most vulnerable in their homes."
At the beginning of the year, there were about 7,500 people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County, and public, private and faith-based homeless service resources were already strained. Reverend Jennifer Reddall, the Episcopal bishop of Arizona and member of the Valley Interfaith Project, says the religious community is not equipped to handle a six-figure surge of newly homeless individuals. She led the Interfaith network’s plea to Gov. Ducey to impose another eviction moratorium as the pandemic continues to tear through Arizona.
Linder said it's entirely within the governor's power to take proactive action to solve this crisis.
“It’s not as though resources are not available," he said. "Resources are available, it’s a matter of political will now. We’re not going to be passive here. This is a crisis as every story has made clear."
Audio Clips from NPR/KJZZ Story:
Arizona Interfaith Network Leverages Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for Arizona Schools in Passage of Prop 208
Through an intense mobilization campaign that engaged voters across the state, Valley Interfaith Project, with Pima County Interfaith, Northern Arizona Interfaith Council and a coalition of education allies, leveraged passage of Prop 208 which will restore millions of dollars to K-12 education funding.
[Excerpts from Jewish News below]
“Quality education is at the core of who the Jewish people are and how we have survived for thousands of years,” said Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel, a member of the Arizona Interfaith Network Clergy Caucus. “And we look at quality education as reflecting the common good of the community.”
AIN was among five organizations that worked for the last four years to pass the Invest in Ed initiative. Other coalition organizations include the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, the Arizona Education Association, Children’s Action Alliance and Stand for Children.
Arizona has among the lowest spending per student on K-12 education in the country, and the state cut funding further during the 2008 recession. Proponents argue that over a decade later, it’s time for the state to restore what was lost.
“It’s doing the right thing, because it’s getting us closer ... to that budget we had before they cut everything,” said Kim Klett, Holocaust literature and AP English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa. She is also on the board of directors of Phoenix Holocaust Association. “They took so much and it was never restored, and so it’s going to be able to restore a lot of those things that we had before.”
Pervasive spending cuts and low education funding have led teachers like Klett to spend their own money or hold fundraisers to purchase school supplies, such as a set of books for her classroom.
“We put in a lot of hours outside of our school day, and I just feel like fundraising for materials that you need in your classroom should not be one of those other things that we have to do,” Klett said, “and yet we do it all the time.”
To Linder, the Invest in Ed initiative represents a welcome change for education funding in Arizona.
“Things that we value, we invest in,” Linder said. “And the reality in Arizona is that our state has simply failed to keep up with basic needs and providing a competitive livelihood for teachers and keeping class sizes manageable.”
Proposition 208 creates a new revenue stream for Arizona public schools by imposing an income tax increase of 3.5% on individuals earning more than $250,000 and married couples earning more than $500,000.
“Our public system is teetering because teachers can’t afford to stay in the teaching field or they choose to go to another state because they’re simply not valued here, and there are thousands of classrooms without a qualified teacher,” Linder said. “That should not be acceptable to the state of Arizona.”
Historic Win as Arizona Voters Say Yes to Propostion 8, Invest in Education [pdf]
With National Spotlight on Maricopa, VIP & AIN Denounce Electoral Provocation, Urge Trust in Process
“The unwarranted provocation, aided and abetted by fringe group extremists, is an affront to the democratic process," said clergy and religious leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network. Prior to the election, they reminded "all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence."
Arizona Election Updates: More Ballot Results Expected Friday Morning, Arizona Republic [jump to 5:15 update] [pdf]
Letter to the Editor by Pima County Interfaith: Count Every Vote, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
VIP/AIN Statement Against Unwarranted Electoral Provocation, Valley Interfaith Project
Voting is now underway at a torrid pace, and soon we will know the much-anticipated results of our pending election. Still, we hear misguided threats and attempts to cast doubt on the election process and how well ballots will be counted.
As faith leaders of the Arizona Interfaith Network who lead congregations that claim active members of all political persuasions, we want to remind all citizens that it is important to vote, regardless of your party affiliation, and to vote with confidence.
We are impressed with both the safeguards and security measures they have put in place, especially provisions for voting during the pandemic. This includes hiring and training additional poll workers, securing safe locations for voting, and preparing for the early tabulation of mail-in ballots, currently underway.
Cooperation of citizens, candidates, and parties is crucial. We implore everyone, whatever your political leaning, to trust the process. Attempts to harass, intimidate, or otherwise suppress the vote of fellow citizens will not be tolerated. These would be an affront to the rule of law, and we will be among the first to denounce such behaviors.
[Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin/Arizona Capitol Times]
With 50% of prisoners testing positive for COVID-10 in one prison alone, and after several conversations with the Governor, DOC Director and Director of Health Services, Valley Interfaith Project leaders are calling for rapid testing of prisoners across Arizona.
"Your current testing plan for the state’s prisons, which just commenced, is too drawn out," Valley Interfaith Project leaders said in a letter to Shinn on Wednesday. "The rapid spread of the virus and the still ongoing unevenness of response by your Department will lead to more loss of life without drastic and immediate interventions."
Arizona Prison Stories, Valley Interfaith Project
After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks.
Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:
"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."
Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State Order, Arizona Interfaith Network [pdf]
Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Hundreds of Arizona religious leaders urged Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his stay-at-home order.
Ducey’s executive order, made over a month ago, is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, unless the governor modifies or extends it.
In a letter organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network, [including Valley Interfaith Project and Pima County Interfaith] religious leaders praised Ducey for issuing the order in the first place. Now the governor must avoid the “false calculus” that pits Arizona’s economy against peoples’ lives, they wrote.
"The economy should serve the common good and promote dignified, safe work, particularly for the most vulnerable,” the letter states. “This a moral decision, not just a business decision. We must do all we can to save lives; life is irreplaceable.”
Ducey faces pressure from Republican leaders in Arizona, including the head of the Arizona GOP, to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
But faith leaders stated that Ducey should rely on clear and convincing science — that means robust testing and contact tracing — to decide when it’s safe to reopen Arizona’s economy.
“The coronavirus will only be contained by broad testing and the application of our best public health measures,” they wrote. “The disease will not cooperate with deadlines imposed by us. It will not respond to political calculations or wishful thinking, and neither should the state of Arizona.”
Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ Radio [pdf]
Governor Ducey: The Stay-at-Home Order Saves Lives, Arizona Interfaith Network
At a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly reception in Baltimore, Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was awarded the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award. Each year, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) honors individuals, like Ana, who "demonstrate leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions."
Having worked with PCI for the past four years, Ana was originally nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity. Said Sr. Leonette Kochan, the department's former director: “Ana's Catholic faith motivates and inspires her role as a parent, faith community member, and leader in the wide range of social outreach initiatives in which she participates. Her courageous determination and the support of others found expression in her life of service to others, especially in programs that empower the lives of others. As a person who faces economic struggles as a single parent of four children, Ana also leads by example in balancing family life with work, while pursuing a college degree.”
In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders and was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see links further below).
[In photo, Ana Chavarin prepares Spanish-speaking parish ministers for leadership.]
Once Cheated, Community Leader Now Helps Others Speak with United Voice, Catholic News Service [pdf]
Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a Success, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
Pima County Interfaith (PCI) organizer Ana Chavarin was recently named the 2019 National Recipient of the Cardinal Joseph Bernadin New Leadership Award by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
This honor, awarded annually to an outstanding young adult, recognizes the leadership, energy and diverse skills that young people bring to the anti-poverty work of community organizing projects and Catholic parishes.
Ana was nominated by the Diocese of Tucson’s Office of Human Life & Dignity, and she will be formally presented with the Cardinal Bernadin award at the November meeting of the US Catholic Bishops to be held in Baltimore later this year.
Ana has worked with PCI for the past four years.
In 2018 she won a US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) award for Hispanic Catholic Leaders (see below). She was also recognized by the Arizona Daily Star for her community achievements (see further below).
Neto's Tucson: Ana Chavarin is a Single Mom, an Immigrant and a Success, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]