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Faith in the Public Square

“Are we just going to eat and smile at each other and pretend we don’t have differences?” The question gets asked at the prospect of interfaith gatherings. The assumption is that we have to diminish or reduce our truth claims in order to make space for other beliefs, or that there will be lots of platitudes, but little action.

But for the last two years, the CCT has been asked by the Mayor of Fresno to steward a process that gets one of Fresno’s greatest assets — people and institutions of faith — to work together on complex issues facing the city. Out of these meetings, there have been more that 60 rehab projects completed in poor neighborhoods, more than 25 churches trained to do homelessness outreach, and the Mayor has had the benefit of collective wisdom regarding issues he is forming policy on.

This week the CCT gathered the Mayor’s Faith-Based Partnership Council (which includes about 150 faith leaders representing all faith traditions in Fresno) to hear about upcoming decisions in the areas of infrastructure and parks, the selection of a new police chief, the latest developments addressing homelessness, and the experience of fear in several faith-specific communities. Leaders listened, then wrote responses, then shared insights with one another, and these will be presented to the Mayor to be used in policy-making process.

No city can afford to leave any institution on the sidelines that organizes itself for the well-being of its people and its community. In every major social movement seeking the peace well-being and justice of a people group or community, institutions and people of faith have played a crucial role. We believe this is because love is the secret sauce. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his work, A Time to Break Silence, “The world is not divided between black and white or Christian and Muslim, but between those who would live together as brother [and sisters] and those who would perish together as fools.” The CCT is honored to steward this process in Fresno.


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