Sunday, May 20, 2001

Faithful exhorted on city issues

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        Organizers of an Archdiocese of Cincinnati meeting Saturday want people of all faiths to wake up from their lethargy when it comes to social issues.

        The Ecology Project Team of the Catholic Social Action Commission sponsored Saturday's meeting at First United Church of Christ in College Hill. Representatives from several faith-based organizations met to discuss the impact of urban unrest and how suburban sprawl hurt the inner city.

        “What we're hoping for is to inform the Catholic community about how our traditions compel us to care for and be in relationship with God's creation,” said Tara Poling, the project team manager.

        According to “Toward a Region in Balance,” an Ecology Project Team report, population trends in Cincinnati conflict with Catholic teaching on social issues.

        “Care for the earth is not demonstrated as development practices continue to encroach on farmland and place additional strains on water supply and air and soil quality,” the report stated. “Solidarity among all people is not occurring as the poor are left in urban Cincinnati and self-interest divides urban, suburban and rural peoples.”

        Cincinnati City Councilman John Cranley hopes targeting key African-American leaders for involvement and the city's mediation in a racial profiling lawsuit will begin to heal what he called “deep, dangerous” unrest within the African-American community. But he doesn't know how to persuade residents to buy in to what leaders are doing.

        “It's not clear what the end game is,” Mr. Cranley said. “I have no sense of when we're going to be over that hump.”

        Chuck Matthei is with Equity Trust, a Voluntown, Conn., non-profit organization that helps communities conserve land for affordable housing and other uses. He said there is hope.

        “Success is certainly not assured, but success is possible,” Mr. Matthei said.

        Cindy Summers Lewis is a member of St. Monica-St. George Church in Clifton Heights. She said Mr. Matthei's mention of successes in preserving land inspired her.

        Tom Choquette, a pastoral associate at St. Xavier Church on Sycamore Street downtown, said people have to embrace economic, racial and social diversity to address the issues of education, housing and race relations. But he said a single word - sustainability - often scares people.

        “It has so many meanings,” Mr. Choquette said. “Does it mean I have to give up something? Sustainability at whose expense?”

        Robyn Bancroft is lead organizer for the Amos Project, an interfaith coalition of 28 Christian congregations in Hamilton County and Northern Kentucky that addresses social issues. She said a major barrier is breaking down distrust toward politicians and their constituents.

        “This is everyone,” Ms. Bancroft said. “This is developing those relationships, it's finding common ground.”


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