300 religious leaders back Occupy Wall St.

Oct. 21, 2011 at 4:00 AM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- About 300 religious congregations and spiritual leaders have signed a statement supporting the values of Occupy Wall Street activists, a New York church said.

The places of worship and clergy people "support the spirit of Occupy Wall Street," the Rev. Donna Schaper of New York's Judson Memorial Church, affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA and the United Church of Christ, told the online TV Odyssey Networks.

"We're not an organization. We're not trying to join Occupy. We're really here to make a moral and spiritual statement in support of a new democratic energy," said Schaper, whose church came up with the idea.

"Our traditions are clear," the statement says. "The impoverishment of the many for the benefit of the few destroys us all. The cries of our people are clear -- the American dream is compromised, the middle is slipping away, and in our politics, fairness is dissipating.

"So we commit ourselves to the restoration of justice for all in our economy, and compassion in our politics, that together we might behold a revolution of values for all our people," it says.

The statement envisions the United States once again being "the fulfillment of hopes and dreams for all who reach its shores."

Statement signers include Bahais, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, New Thought practitioners, Protestants, Pagans, Seventh-day Adventists, Unitarian Universalists and other faith paths, organizers said.

"There are times we can put our different beliefs aside and come together for a common cause -- that is social justice, economic justice," the Rev. Sheldon Hamblin of the Church of the Nativity, an Episcopal church in Brooklyn, N.Y., told Oddyssey.

"This is basically a very fundamental moral and ethical issue," Buddhist Global Relief Chairman Bhikkhu Bodhi said. "The question is, what kind of society do we want?"

"My biblical faith teaches that we should prioritize the needs of those at the bottom of the social ladder, that we should be the voice of the voiceless," the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the Pentecostal House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn said.

"The problem is not with the needy but with the greedy," he said.

The Rev. John Merz of Brooklyn's Church of the Ascension said the activists, who have protested since Sept. 17, have transformed their Zuccotti Park encampment site into "sacred space" through the way they are being with each other.

The Arab American Association of New York said it planned to hold a traditional Muslim jumu'ah prayer at 1 p.m. EDT Friday alongside Occupy Wall Street protesters.

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