Boston Interfaith Groups Create Social Action, Safer Neighborhoods

December 1, 2003

Source: The Boston Globe

On December 1, 2003 The Boston Globe reported, "The auditorium at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church was filled with the noise of some 750 people looking for seats and trying to figure out the headphones that would broadcast the night's speeches in Portuguese and Spanish. White-haired ladies waved signs with the names of their churches. Rubber-soled shoes shrieked as they scuffed the polished floor. Then Jack Livramento stepped before the people seated in rows of folding chairs. Suddenly there was silence. 'I ask you here tonight: Do you want safe neighborhoods?' Livramento said, sounding more like a preacher than a chemist. 'Yes!' the audience shouted, filling the room with cheering, whooping, and clapping. By the time the meeting ended, the sea of older men, professionals, laborers, and high school students had extracted promises from some of the most powerful people in New Bedford and Fall River, two working-class cities struggling with high rates of crime and unemployment. The pledges were negotiated by United Interfaith Action of Southeastern Massachusetts, an unusual grass-roots group run by former factory workers, religious leaders, and immigrants, and sustained by hundreds of churchgoers. The group targets a broad range of local leaders: from city and school officials to chancellors and presidents of local colleges and hospitals... United Interfaith, one of six similar groups around the state, was organized in 1997 to help people -- especially those who already belonged to churches -- improve life in their communities. Its members come from nearly 20 religious groups of various denominations, including Catholic, Baptist, Episcopal, United Church of Christ, and Methodist."