JUNE 1990: Issues statement on escalation of words that have potential to cause violent acts by individuals/groups. Says can’t ignore contributing causes of violence: racism, lack of jobs, etc. Stories by Chicago Tribune, Milwaukee Times, WTMJ-TV, Journal/Sentinel, Time, and Christian Century about Ald. Michael McGee’s protests refer to statement.
Initiates major program, Beyond Racism – Building Community. Creates multicultural dialogues, does extensive training/programs helping people understand racism, white privilege, ethnic stereotypes, identifying issues that need to be addressed. Earns three awards in 1993:
Beyond Racism starts summer programs for children 4-12 in 1994 to foster new friendships, understandings among children of diverse racial & ethnic backgrounds. In 1995, over 400 children participate. “Alike & Different” lesson plan book, still used today, comes out of these efforts.
Speaks out on Desert Storm invasion of Iraq: On May 5, 1991, representatives of Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths issue four-page statement, “An Interfaith Plea for Justice” at Calvary Baptist Church. Introduction says, “We grieve over the tremendous loss of human life in the Persian Gulf. We also grieve the ongoing loss of human life and dignity in our own city, a city devastated by grinding poverty, unemployment and racism. To accept without question or action transgressions and violations of the values, and laws with which our creator has entrusted us, is nothing less than complicity in these evils.”
PIIC urges congregations to use Desert Storm statement as basis for discussion and action. It has three sections offering reflections on international, domestic and local issues, each with a study guide. Writing committee included: Nancy Theoharis, Paula Simon, Eva Jensen, Othman Atta and Sam Loteguluaki.
Issues 1994 report, “The Environment: A Common Statement.” Suggests responsibilities we are called to meet in our role as inhabitants and abusers of the planet. Calls for us to “walk more gently upon the Earth” by finding ways to change our individual and corporate lifestyles.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu brought here for Interfaith Conference’s 25th anniversary. A four-day visit in 1995 in collaboration with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Presbytery of Milwaukee. Tutu speaks to eight groups. Each presentations is tailored to a specific audience yet has a common theme. He challenges us to be caring, compassionate people. He speaks of refugees of the world and raises up the needs of children, saying that they are our future. We are called upon to make his dream of a humane and just society a reality. He speaks of the beauty that exists in our multi-racial, multi-cultural society.
Conference’s Task Force on the Environment and MAIR holds “The One Earth” conference on the environment Nov. 5, 1995. Planning committee focuses on quote from 1986 Declaration of Assisi and its calls from Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Islamic leaders to the faithful:
“No one pretends that our respective beliefs are or can be held in common; but we do believe that religious concern for the conservation and ecological harmony of the natural world is our common heritage, our birthright and our duty.”
Other Conference activities/actions in 1990s
Creates CAN video on “Taking the Next Step” to promote advocacy in religious community
Opposes death penalty as inconsistent with religious values
Conference’s Parent Education Project produces video “Preparing Parents for the Parent/Teacher Conference” and handbook with suggestions for congregations.
Conducts advocacy focusing on livable-wage jobs and affordable housing as seminal issues related to violence.
Wisconsin Farmers Foundation becomes affiliate of Interfaith Conference, addresses needs of family farms and rural communities in eastern/southeastern Wisconsin and beyond. Conference provides emergency Feed & Seed grants of up to $500 from Project Isadore Fund. In 1996 alone, 27 farm families get grants. Farm families hold markets at congregations. At Thanksgiving, congregations donate money to WFF.
Promotes National Farm Workers’ boycott of California table grapes.
Takes stance opposing federal and state wasting of resources that should be earmarked for relief of people in need.
Conference becomes umbrella agency for Milwaukee Coalition for Global Survival. Sponsors town hall meeting on environment, attended by two dozen state, local leaders. Large crowd expresses concerns. Lead poisoning, recycling among issues.
Gets funding to provide staff person for Congregational Outreach Resources Partnership, a collaboration of Interfaith Conference and Fighting Back Initiative to forge links with agencies that address substance abuse and violence prevention.
Continues to be at core of fostering partnerships between religious community, public-private agencies, business, labor, and foundations to address social issues/change. “The religious community believes every decision, whether it is political, economic or social has moral implications. Through the Conference, the religious community acts together to raise awareness that all people have the responsibility to ‘Uphold the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community.’”
Peace & International Issues Committee launches Tuesdays in March lecture/luncheon series in 1993 with topics such as “Global Challenges: The United Nations, and the Faith Community,” “All God’s Children Need...The Desperate Plight of Children in Today’s World,” “The World Awash with Refugees,” “Survival, The Balance Between Environment and Development.” Series continues today.
Religious leaders call for inclusion of concerns of poor in 1992 political agenda in gathering at St. Ben’s Church hall, one of several meal program sites. ELCA Bishop Peter Rogness, Conference chairman, says, “The poor are treated as the cause of the nation’s ills rather than identifying the poor as a symptom of a poor nation. We want to upgrade the discussion.”
At the end of 1995, Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations becomes a program committee of the Interfaith Conference. During its prior 13-year history, MAIR fostered interfaith dialogues and conducted extensive interfaith, educational and celebratory programs.
In 1995, Conference establishes Urban-Suburban Partnership to connect people/congregations and support regional volunteerism to overcome economic, political, racial divisions. Some congreations serve as overflow shelters for homeless. Volunteers from city/suburbs respond to call for help.
Publishes 10-page “Values and Government Priorities: A Study Guide for Congregations" in May 1990. Updates it in 1996.
State budget lobbying successes in 1999 include lower child care co-payments in the W2 program, better economic support for families where the parent cannot work, expansion of emergency housing assistance, and advancement of Family Care long-term care pilot project.