Faith communities and their leaders are extraordinarily well positioned to create a more inclusive, equitable and resilient Montgomery County. The sacred texts of all the major faith traditions teach the importance of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, seeking justice, and caring for the poor and vulnerable. Faith leaders, particularly for immigrant, minority and marginalized communities, are often the most trusted voices for these individuals as they navigate new and challenging experiences. Faith communities are highly resourceful with many talented members, facilities with flexible uses throughout the county, access to financial support for human service programs, and vast numbers of volunteers who sustain community services.
The impact of faith communities grows exponentially as they cross lines of race, culture, gender, ideology and religion in serving the common good. Examples of effective activities include; interfaith worship services of thanksgiving, interfaith prayer and candlelight vigils responding to acts of hate and violence, hosting multicultural dialogues on important and challenging local moral issues, serving as first responders to emergencies, providing healthcare, and welcoming immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Community members experiencing the rich diversity of Montgomery County in these ways know we are one human family inspired with social justice and compassion.
Faith communities are committed to serving human need and promoting social justice and equity.
Their combined service significantly complements the work of county government programs, policies and laws that seek similar goals. Caring and advocating for those in need is essential to every faith community. Faith communities also provide funding and volunteers in service of others in the greater community. Some form nonprofits, such as community-based health clinics, affordable housing, senior housing, retirement centers, job training and sanctuary for asylum seekers. Advocating together, faith communities provide an important and urgent voice for the voiceless.
Many faith communities think it is vitally important to do more than treat the symptoms of social, racial, and economic inequities. For them, the systems creating injustice need to be changed. They support policies consistent with the reign of divine love, justice, and righteousness or right relationships. It is likewise their responsibility to confront elected officials and change the systems, policies, and practices that fall short of these standards.
Public officials should work collaboratively with faith leaders, who can help them in many ways to achieve effective leadership. One is to gain insight to where human need and suffering is most evident. Another is assistance in understanding the best ways to create a more beloved community where every human need is met and every human right respected. Another is marshaling volunteers and finances for passing needed legislation and effectively implementing programs.
County leaders, especially the County Executive, should reach out to leaders of all faiths to establish trust and understanding and to facilitate working relationships among county agencies and faith organizations. Existing approaches to cooperation should be assessed and improvements made to assure the highest levels of communication, respect, and cooperation between faith communities and county government.