|Religion takes its place in ‘Occupy Wall Street’|
|Wednesday, 26 October 2011 22:00|
BOSTON - Downtown Dewey Square is crammed with tents and tarps of Occupy Boston protesters, but organisers made sure
from the start of this weeks-old encampment that there was room for the holy.
A day's schedule finds people balancing their chakras, a "compassion meditation" and a discussion of a biblical passage in Luke. Inside, a Buddha statue sits near a picture of Jesus, while a hand-lettered sign in the corner points toward Mecca.
Still, Occupy Wall Street is not a religious movement, and signs of spirituality aren't evident at all protest sites.
Religion might not fit into the movement seamlessly, but activist Dan Sieradski, who has helped organise Jewish services and events at Occupy Wall Street, said it must fit somewhere.
Sieradski organised a Yom Kippur service.
Clergy who support the protests say they are a natural fit with many faiths, because they share traditional concerns about economic injustice. They also point to history, including the civil rights movement and abolition.
Episcopalian "protest chaplains" praying with protesters at different sites.
The strong turnout led him to help organise the Yom Kippur service, activities during Sukkot, and what Sieradski hopes will be regular religious events.
"I feel like it's really important for us to stay rooted in love, simply put," Dagoberto said.
She said some protesters are wary because they don't recognise the authority of institutions, including religious ones, and are generally looking for clergy to be "ministering but not proselytising".
While protesters are cautious about religious leaders, those leaders have concerns, as well. The Rev Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York, has visited Occupy Wall Street and praised the movement for forcing society to re-examine its values. But she said the school is still trying to discern how much to be involved.
"There's so much polarisation in our country now, and demonisation of one side of the other. . . . As religious leaders, we want to be ‘repairers of the breach,'" she said, paraphrasing a passage in Isaiah. "So the question is how we can come together, Wall Street and Main Street, to come up with solutions that are going to work for all of us?"
Mark Tooley of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, an advocacy group for conservative mainline protestants, said while Occupy Wall Street has succeeded in getting attention, it's limited because it's only attracting religious support from the left.
A call for government redistribution of wealth and reliance on street activism doesn't appeal to the swath of suburban churchgoers with conservative political and religious leanings, he said.
The movement could still attract centre-right religious support from the Roman Catholic Church, said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research & Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. But he said it must be clear protesters in the still-fuzzily-defined movement share mainstream Catholic concerns about consumerism and an unfettered free market.
Imam Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, who helped organise last Friday's Muslim prayer service in New York, believes religious groups have already amplified the movement's power.
"If Moses or Jesus or Mohammed were alive in this day and time they'd be out there guiding and inspiring and teaching these young people," he said. - AP.