The virtual conference held in April featured Christian voices for peace from around the world.
Christians from across the United States representing a multitude of churches came together April 25-27 for the 21st annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), a virtual conference for building global peace with justice. The theme for this year’s conference was “Swords into Plowshares: Achieving Enough for All and Pursuing Peace.”
Faith leaders and policy experts from around the world led workshops on issues related to the theme and skills for effective advocacy. On the final day, participants met with their members of Congress, presenting them with two shared policy “asks”: lawmakers were urged to support the People Over Pentagon Act, currently in the House of Representatives, which would cut $100 billion from the Pentagon budget, and to strengthen and protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) in the 2023 Farm Bill.
In choosing this year’s theme, conference organizers wrote, “Through the prophet Micah, God declares, ‘They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ But God also tells us why: ‘They shall all sit under their own vines and their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.’
“Having spent so long running in every direction but peace, it’s easy to forget there’s another way. No one can serve two masters; we cannot excel in both war and justice, both wealth and mercy. We cannot take by force what is intended to be shared. Let us heed Christ’s call and gather as one body to discern how we can re-forge weapons of destruction into tools of growth, cultivate healing throughout God’s creation, and pursue systems that empower each person to thrive.”
The message of hundreds of Christians representing faith communities across the United States asking to defund the Pentagon and fund human needs stood in sharp contrast to the debate over the debt ceiling happening at the same time on Capitol Hill, as House Republicans passed a deal cutting spending on SNAP and other social programs, while lawmakers from both major parties agreed not to touch the bloated Pentagon budget. During an EAD panel presentation on militarism, Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe remarked that we now have a “military-industrial-congressional complex.”
The EAD conference featured plenary sessions on the theological significance of turning swords into plowshares, the connection between militarism and global hunger, and how nutritional equity and sustainability build peace. Over 35 workshops included diverse voices covering a wide range of issues related to the Swords into Plowshares theme, from nuclear disarmament to racial justice, rights of asylum-seekers and refugees to environmental justice in the Farm Bill.
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns’ Lisa Sullivan was joined by Sister Patricia Ryan, MM and others in a workshop on “Taking Action for Human Rights in the Face of State-Sponsored Violence in Peru.” Sullivan also organized a conference on “A New Trade Model for Climate, Labor, and Community Empowerment.” MOGC director Susan Gunn, who was also co-master of ceremonies for the conference, organized a workshop on the findings of an interfaith human rights delegation to the Philippines in which she participated in March.
Participants enjoyed opportunities for both shared ecumenical prayer, and separate denominational worship, as well as virtual spaces for socializing and a virtual exhibit hall with booths highlighting the works of sponsor organizations, including MOGC. Organized into state delegations, conference-goers met for training and strategic planning, culminating in virtual meetings with their respective congressional offices.
Over 370 people from 29 different states and the District of Columbia participated in this year’s conference, representing 18 Christian denominations. About 500 people registered, meaning they can access recordings of conference presentations.
MOGC was just one of several Catholic groups to co-sponsor the event together with United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, Friends (Quaker), Mennonite, Church of the Brethren, Christian Reformed, and Episcopalian organizations, as well as several major ecumenical organizations including Church World Service and the National Council of Churches.
Faith in Action
Register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days to view videos of all plenary sessions and workshops, which will be available to registrants for at least 30 days after the conference.