by Brigid Rooney
Over 900 people, including a group of 55 Boston College students and faculty, gathered at Bethel AME Church in Jamaica Plain on the night of February 2 to participate in the event “For Such a Time as This.” Sponsored and coordinated by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (or GBIO), the evening was designed as a multi-faith call for social change that emphasized concrete action.
Speakers from local congregations and faith groups discussed issues of criminal justice reform, healthcare, and affordable housing in Boston. Leaders from GBIO introduced each topic and framed the discussion by presenting community demands for local government to meet. State and city officials also attended the event, including Massachusetts Senators Sonia Chang-Diaz, William Brownsberger, and Stan Rosenberg, as well as City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Ayanna Presley.
GBIO’s proposed several new initiatives, which included reducing solitary confinement for inmates, working locally and nationally to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and appointing local community members to the committee that determines the allocation of affordable housing funds.
Event organizers encouraged participants to take action on a wide range of local issues. Upon entering church, each person was handed a “commitment card”, which asked for pledges to continue advocating for issues of criminal justice, healthcare, and housing reform. Suggested actions included petitioning Republican senators about healthcare, attending the Community Preservation Act Public Hearing, and participating in local criminal justice reform meetings with elected officials.
The event also offered Boston residents a chance to share their stories with the crowd at the church. Locals recounted their experiences with solitary confinement, losing medical coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and the struggles to own a home in an increasingly expensive city.
Stephen Pope, a Boston College theology professor who joined a group of BC students at the event, described the evening as an example of “Christians, Muslims, and Jews working together out of shared devotion to the common good.”
“This runs against those who want us to think religion is inherently violent, irrational, and divisive,” he said. “The event provided a strong example of inter-religious solidarity and how religion can be a source of unity among people from different traditions.”