The continuing rise of COVID-19 cases and its heart-breaking effects led Faith Action’s leadership to call two Faith Action town hall meetings in September. There, members expressed their heartfelt concerns about the pandemic and shared ideas on how people of faith will be heard by the Governor.
The result of the meetings is the following letter to the Governor which begins with:
“As faith communities in Hawai‘i, we recognize the pain — physical, emotional and spiritual — being felt by so many of our people as a result of Covid19…. While we know that there are no easy answers, we also know that the foundation of all our religious beliefs is love — love for our Creator and for our neighbors as ourselves. With this in mind, we feel compelled both to take action ourselves and to encourage additional action from you.”
September 16, 2021
The Honorable David Y. Ige Governor, State of Hawai‘i Executive Chambers State Capitol Honolulu, Hawai‘i 96813
Aloha, Governor Ige:
Faith Action for Community Equity is an alliance of faith-based organizations who have joined together with others to focus on issues of social justice. As faith communities in Hawai‘i, we recognize the pain — physical, emotional and spiritual — being felt by so many of our people as a result of Covid19. We witness our families struggling with the challenges of personal freedom vs. social responsibility. We see infection rates skyrocketing, death rates increasing, and the health care system being overwhelmed to the point where more routine medical issues cannot be treated. While we know that there are no easy answers, we also know that the foundation of all our religious beliefs is love — love for our Creator and for our neighbors as ourselves. With this in mind, we feel compelled both to take action ourselves and to encourage additional action from you.
Coming from this perspective, we recognize the challenges faced by government officials as you seek to preserve the common good. We welcome your recent decision to mandate vaccinations, even in a limited way, because such vaccinations are currently the surest route we have in caring for our neighbors as ourselves.
Still, we know we have responsibilities within our own faith communities to translate belief into action. Toward this end, we pledge to become more vocal and more visible, and to take some or all of the following measures in the weeks and months ahead:
Support mandatory vaccination as we preach from our pulpits the importance of showing love for our neighbors by getting vaccinated and as we deny religious exemptions
Even if churches are excused from some limits, maintain social distancing, group sizes, etc.
Encourage the sharing of stories among our members, to address fears or misconceptions that may be keeping some of them from seeking vaccination
When possible, provide an “aloha lanai” where such sharing can occur while social distances are maintained
When possible, match volunteer drivers with those who need transportation to a vaccination site
When possible, open our church facilities as a site for the administration of vaccine
Promote health literacy to help our members understand the facts of viral behavior
If the overall situation does not improve, support expanded or even complete shutdown of the state
Even as we take these actions, though, we encourage you, as Governor, to take additional actions for the good of the state. Just to suggest some possibilities:
Work with the State Board of Education to improve the safety of the learning environment for our keiki
Reduce barriers to Covid testing (such as the DLS policy to test only those who have traveled)
Continue special efforts with those populations where mortality rates are high (Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders), especially helping leaders in those communities to share accurate health information
Send the message repeatedly that exemption from vaccination does not exempt you from the consequences of being unvaccinated (i.e., you cannot access any setting where vaccination is required)
If existing efforts do not lower our Covid numbers, impose a complete shutdown
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. If you or any members of your administration would like additional information about the efforts we have listed here, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ikaika Hussey President, Faith Action for Community Equity
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