A group of 50 faith leaders from across the country convened at EJI this week to discuss the role of the church in social justice and ending mass incarceration.
The gathering was organized by Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization led by Jim Wallis. The organization publishes the widely renowned Sojourners magazine.
The Sojourners gathered in Montgomery for two days of meetings and discussion about criminal justice reform and a pilgrimage through the story of slavery, racial terrorism, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration. In the coming year, EJI and faith community members hope to advance important work on criminal justice reform and confronting America’s history of racial injustice.
The meeting began on Monday with a dialogue about America’s racial history facilitated by EJI director Bryan Stevenson. The group then gathered at several sites in Montgomery, Alabama, which was one of the nation’s most prominent slave trading communities. Faith leaders joined EJI at several sites where EJI hopes to create new markers, memorials, and monuments designed to aid in confronting America’s history of racial injustice. Faith leaders offered prayers, reflections, and testimony in support of the power of these efforts.
As part of EJI’s Soil Collection Project, the faith leaders collected soil from sites where lynchings took place in Montgomery County and Elmore County. EJI is partnering with community groups, churches, and individuals across the South to memorialize lynching victims through the Soil Collection Project. The collected soil is being used as part of an exhibit designed to begin a process of recovery and reconciliation in response to our history of lynching and terror.
The group heard from Anthony Ray Hinton, who was exonerated and released this year after three decades on Alabama’s death row for crimes he did not commit, and spent several hours contemplating strategies for criminal justice reform. EJI is grateful to have hosted this gathering of faith leaders and remains hopeful about continuing work.