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Economic justice for the unfortunate 




Reflections on Muslim and Christian

Spirituality in the Southland

Sometimes we learn the greatest lessons from making the biggest mistakes.

A Hispanic hotel maid was complaining to me about an unjust situation with her employer. I listened carefully and then replied, "Just go in there and tell them what you’ve told me, and tell them what you want. Don’t take no for an answer."

I could see that she started to laugh. And then her face clouded up and she started to cry. "You don’t understand." And she stumbled away.

"You don’t get it", my colleague said, punching me in the shoulder. "Connie, you are White, well-educated, very well-spoken, energetic, can put together what you need to protest, and are able to command the attention of other influencers if you don’t get what you want. She is Brown, poorly educated, doesn’t have a great command of English, overtired, has no resources, and has friends with no influence who wouldn’t speak up if they could because they are afraid of losing their jobs."

Why couldn’t I have seen that? I was ashamed. I made a decision that day that I would use my influence to bring economic justice where I could. Both Islam and Christianity have strong teachings about providing for the poor and unfortunate.

In his Friday khutbah, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, reminds us of the importance of taking care of those around us.

"Ita’ dhi al-qurba: It means ‘giving to the kith and kin.’ It means keeping the family ties very strong. It is to look after one’s own relatives and being generous to them. First take care of those who are near you, then help others. Dhul Qurba include not only relatives, but also the neighbors and co-workers. They should be treated with respect, helped and supported in their needs."

In the Hebrew scriptures (Deuteronomy 15), God commands his people not to shut their hands to the poor, but to lend freely to them, providing whatever they need.

There are 12,000 In Home Service Providers (IHSS) in Orange County who give "to kith and kin" by providing necessary care for the elderly, blind and disabled in the home. Orange County is the lowest paying county in the state at $8.40 an hour. The county can access state and federal funds to raise this wage to $11.50 an hour, but those in charge would have to take action. Fortunately, an interfaith organization called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) is addressing this issue with the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

In a similar situation in Los Angeles County, the Shura Council of Southern California has joined an interfaith Coalition to testify to the City Council on behalf of impoverished hotel workers for living wages and health care.

In the current season of Lent, similar to the spirit during Ramadan, let us continue in good works and compassion.

"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." -- Edmond Burke.

And that’s where I find that the cross meets the crescent.

Rev. Connie Regener, a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena and chaplain at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley is a religious commentator in the Southland.  

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