Faith in Change

Las Vegas has a cyclical history of religious social activism. Through the years, numerous interfaith groups have met most often to network, but sometimes they join forces in activism—to oppose nuke waste at Yucca Mountain, for example, or protest the war in Iraq.

In the past year, a new group called the Las Vegas Valley Interfaith Sponsoring Committee has been meeting to lay the groundwork for a broader organization aimed at tackling numerous social issues: child sex trafficking, education, immigrant integration, foreclosures and blighted properties.

The group is backed by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), an international nonpartisan activist group responsible for the “living wage” movement in Baltimore and New York, affordable housing efforts in Brooklyn and South Bronx, and blight-removal projects in Philadelphia and New York City.

Rev. Dennis Hutson of Advent United Methodist Church is on the local steering committee, which hosts its first Community Convention at the UNLV Student Union Ballroom at 6:30 p.m. May 22. The committee plans to announce a new IAF leader assigned to Las Vegas.

“People in Las Vegas are very disconnected,” says Hutson, a former Air Force chaplain who has been here six years. “People may have been here 25 years but they have superficial relationships, they don’t really know each other. But in reality, we are all in relationship with one another, whether we want to be or not, so we need to communicate.”

To that end, he says, the Interfaith Sponsoring Committee is working to build relationships across faiths and political parties, across socio-economic boundaries and neighborhoods.

The group is expecting more than 25 religious congregations, nonprofits and businesses at the convention.