WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Religious Occupy movement protesters vowed to greet Washington's National Prayer Breakfast guests with a vigil stressing wealth and income differences.
The Occupy Faith vigil -- with protesters holding candles and handing out artwork from children depicting their dreams for the future -- was to take place Thursday across the street from the Washington Hilton, where President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were to join about 3,500 other guests, including international invitees from more than 100 countries.
The $650-a-plate, invitation-only National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by members of Congress and organized by the Fellowship Foundation, a conservative Christian network also known as The Family.
Occupy Faith organizers planned a free-of-charge People's Prayer Breakfast, open to anyone, at a church several blocks from the Hilton.
The alternative breakfast, coinciding with the National Prayer Breakfast, would be a time "to reflect, pray and draw attention to the suffering and marginalization of millions of U.S. citizens languishing in economic distress, uncertainty and poverty," organizers said in a statement.
"We are not expecting any representatives or senators or the president, but they are all welcome to come," Brian Merritt, pastor of Washington's interdenominational Palisades Community Church, told The Huffington Post.
The alternative breakfast, at the Presbyterian Church of the Pilgrims, was to include clergy of all spiritual traditions, faith-based social-justice advocates, Occupy movement members "and ordinary people of faith from across D.C. and the nation," organizers said.
"There are many good things that have come out of the National Prayer Breakfast," the Occupy Faith statement said. "But we believe that the time is come to create new institutions that reflect the faith of the grassroots of our nation, rather than the faith of the elite.
"With our presence, we issue a challenge to President Obama and all the participants at the National Prayer Breakfast to focus their conversations and prayers on the suffering of the 99 percent," the statement said.
President Obama was to address the National Prayer Breakfast at 8 a.m. EST, the White House said, without offering a preview of his remarks.
Last year Obama told the audience of lawmakers, religious leaders and foreign heads of state he prayed for an end to the Egyptian violence associated with the uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak eight days later and continues to this day.
Obama last year called his Christian faith a "sustaining force" in his life and said it was important, in the middle of strife, to "go back to the Scriptures to remind ourselves that none of us have the answer."
Merritt said the alternative breakfast sought to remind people that God is found "among the most dispossessed" as well as the wealthy.
Its theme was to be that there is "enough for everyone," despite appearances, organizers said -- arguing the reason it may not look like there is enough is that so many people who have more than enough share only the smallest part of what they have with those who have less.