The Faith & Justice Summit Series was launched in 2016 to provide spaces where we could draw attention to under-addressed justice issues in New England, celebrate the work being pioneered by faith-motivated organizations, affirm the connection between faith and action, explore how the church can most strategically be involved, and connect with God’s heart and wisdom in a way that shapes our hearts and minds for future action.
The first Summit focused on Human Trafficking, one of the most horrific injustices of our time, and something that’s happening in the cities, suburbs and rural areas of every New England state. Over the last decade, the fledgling movement to address human trafficking has matured, and many Christian leaders and organizations are having strategic impact. What a thrill to see 21 faith-motivated organizations gathered on the same day under the same roof, sharing, exploring, celebrating, equipping, and networking with each other, in a way that unified and strengthened our work moving forward. It was obvious this needed to become an annual gathering point. In 2017, 32 organizations participated, and in 2018, 38.
While we were launching the Summit on Human Trafficking, we were also interviewing prison ministry leaders in the region, learning where the greatest unmet needs were. To a person, they said that the “next frontier” in prison ministry would be to develop robust “reentry support” that helps discharged prisoners create healthy social networks, get meaningful employment and reunite with their families. Studies have shown that when these supports are NOT available, 80% will end up committing crimes that land them back in prison (called “recidivism”). When these supports ARE in place, recidivism rates drop below 10%. The church is uniquely designed, and has a massive opportunity, to change the narrative, and restore individuals, their families and their communities.
With that in mind, we launched in 2018 the second part of the series: The Faith & Justice Summit on Reentry Support. Similar to the Summit on Human Trafficking, we celebrated reentry work being pioneered in the region, and had beginning discussions on several of the critical issues that will enable us to move forward.
At Vision New England, we believe that, as core aspects of our discipleship, followers of Jesus do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God, and help others do the same. We embrace the example of the Samaritan, who saw the man who had been beaten up and left for dead on the side of the road and took action that saved his life and enabled him to be restored. We share with the broken the love that set US free, and work to change systems that perpetuate brokenness; and in doing so, we help others see a little more clearly the God who stepped into human history and made the ultimate sacrifice so we could have life.