In a fight for social justice, five L.A.-area African American faith leaders joined with 49 black ministers throughout the country to protest the potential of oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
In a Dec. 11 letter to the U.S. Congress, the Rev. Dr. Welton Pleasant, president of the California State Baptist Convention; the Rev. Dr. E. Wayne Gaddis, president of the California Missionary Baptist State Convention; the Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Hardwick, president of the Western Baptist State Convention; the Rev. Dr. Allen Williams, Sr., presiding elder of the AME Church Los Angeles District; and the Rev. Mark Hardin, presiding elder of the CME Church Los Angeles District united with colleagues to implore federal legislators to remove provisions in the impending tax reform bill that would open up drilling in northern Alaska.
The indigenous Gwich’in people, who depend on the Refuge’s Coastal Plain and the Porcupine Caribou herd to maintain their standard of living, food supply and ecological balance, inhabit the area.
“As pastors and religious leaders, we are gravely concerned about the injustice that would be borne by a people who have lived in the Arctic Refuge for tens of thousands of years. The Gwich’in people rely on the Coastal Plain of the Arctic Refuge for their spiritual well being and for food security,” the letter stated.
“As black church leaders, we are also struck by the similar injustices continually faced by the African American community. We may live far from Alaska, but our plight as African Americans is one and the same, and thus the call to protect the land of the Gwich’in, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is a common cause.”
The signers include religious leaders representing Baptist, AME, CME and Church of God in Christ conventions and districts in New Jersey, California, Florida, South Carolina, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, and New York.
The letter echoes the message of two petitions delivered this fall to members of Congress. Fifteen thousand pro-life evangelical Christians signed one petition and 650 black clergy and 5,600 black church congregants signed a separate appeal.
The National Religious Partnership for the Environment, an alliance of independent faith groups, coordinated the effort. The organization is comprised of a broad spectrum of religions including Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, and Jewish.