Bankole: ‘Nuns on the Bus’ spotlights Detroit poverty

Bankole Thompson

In the eighth century before Christ, prophet Amos spoke about the dangers of two societies in Israel: massive wealth among the few and cruel poverty endured by the rest of the Israelites.

Centuries later, Amos’ crusade for a just society is relevant in an America where the widening gap between the rich and the poor mirrors what he railed against back then.

But NETWORK, the Catholic social justice group in Washington, D.C., led by Sister Simone Campbell, has long been answering the call of prophet Amos. The group has resumed its “Nuns on the Bus” tour with 54 planned events that is taking them to 21 states over the course of 27 days from Oct. 8-Nov. 2, where the tour will end at Mar-a-Lago in Florida with a Fiesta for the Common Good.

The 35 nuns taking part in this bus trip are stopping in Detroit on Saturday for an 11 a.m. rally at Cass Community Social Services, to call attention to policies that are hurting the poor including tax cuts that end up benefiting the wealthiest, not the neediest in our nation.

“At a time when partisanship and anger are running rampant in our nation, Nuns on the Bus is taking to the road to challenge the unpatriotic lie that our nation is based on individualism and to lift up the truth that we are best as a nation when we act on the Constitutional obligation to be ‘We the People,”’ Sister Campbell told me. “Now more than ever, this message is needed as we approach the November elections. So, we are on the road to speak out against the GOP tax legislation as the wrong way forward.”

 Campbell is challenging the GOP Congress to do more.

Sister Simone Campbell speaks on tour with NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group that Campbell leads.

“I must say that Republican members do not see the connection between the tax law and the issues of poverty,” Campbell said. “They do not accept that wages have not increased for low-wage workers and that our families need federal programs to survive. They quickly say, “Oh, the economy will take care of it." I say, with Pope Francis, that any legislation that gives huge tax breaks to the wealthiest and crumbs to working families is an economy of exclusion and death and must be opposed.”

While pressure must be brought to bear on elected officials to deal with poverty, organizations and civic leaders cannot be left off the hook either in spotlighting inequality and demanding change.

“For the most part, our leaders avoid the issues of poverty. I think they are afraid to name the truth of struggling families, maybe because it pricks their consciences,” Campbell said. “I know many organizations are working together on this economic issue and making significant progress for some families. In Phoenix, Arizona, we visited Human Services Campus, which has a dozen service organizations together on one campus to serve the needs of people experiencing homelessness. It is a modern welcoming site that provides comprehensive services and then follow-up support to people who get jobs, housing and, most importantly, hope.”

She added, “But for every good news story, there are dozens more of struggle and isolation. The truth is that we have work to do. Poverty is not a requirement in our society. We can do better than we are doing, and the time to do so is now. Voting on Nov. 6 for candidates who are willing to talk about these issues is one step forward.”

Campbell is excited to come to Detroit, a city that reflects much of the growing inequality in the nation.

“Many in Detroit have been working to change the reality of poverty,” Campbell said. “I am eager to hear of innovative responses and shared imagination to help your city flourish. I then hope that we can take what we learn and share it on the road.”

Sister Linda Werthman, one of the participating nuns on the tour from the Detroit Mercy Sisters said, “I’m very aware of the 50 years of decline in the city. Part of that is due to racism and the other part is due to industry moving out of Detroit.”

She delves into the “two Detroit” phenomenon.

“There is some reversal in downtown and Midtown, but I do hope Mayor Mike Duggan and city planning are really sincere in moving to the neighborhoods,” Werthman said. “I’m also concerned about the water shut-offs because I believe that water is a human right.”

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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