Around 250 clergy and faith leaders from across the nation gathered for three days in June 2018 to speak with government officials about the state of their communities and prevalent issues such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) at the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast (NHPB).
Gabriel Araya, a pastor at Casa Del Rey in Rialto, was one of three California faith leaders invited to attend the NHPB in Washington, D.C. Araya was invited by Vice President Mike Pence to discuss issues concerning the Hispanic community in the Inland Empire.
After talking about some of the issues of the I.E. and its Hispanic community to prominent government officials at the NHPB, Araya said it has opened his view of the government, according to an interview with Araya.
“I got a new view of the government,” Araya said. “Too many times we believe the government is in a closed room, just thinking about themselves, but now we know the difference.”
The NHPB, an annual event since 2002, is conducted by Esperanza, a nonprofit Latino Christian advocacy group committed to strengthening Hispanic communities. The NHPB is designed to advance faith-based advocacy and bring together both sides of the political aisle to listen to and communicate with faith leaders about U.S. Hispanic communities.
Araya met with both Republicans and Democrats to discuss issues concerning the Farm Bill, DACA and the role of the church in a community. Araya was able to talk with House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the needs of the I.E., including the issue of homelessness in the community.
“We said that we need support from the government to help the Inland Empire raise up businesses and we also talked about the Farm Bill,’” Araya said.
The Farm Bill, a law that governs different farm programs and nutrition programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, will be reauthorized on Sept. 30, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Pastors asked Ryan to keep funding for the Farm Bill in order to help bring food to families’ tables, said Araya.
Araya also met with U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein to discuss DACA and the DREAM Act.
“We talked about the dreamers in two aspects,” Araya said. “To legalize them because the government spent a lot of money on the dreamers to give them that degree and if they aren’t legalized, then we are sending back professionals to their countries and we need to keep them here.”
Government officials also communicated that they want to open up ways to help communities through the churches, Araya said.
Araya said that Vice President Pence talked about how it’s important for the government to support churches and community organizations because it’s the people within a community who are the best to help that community.
Araya was invited to attend next year’s NHPB and said that he’ll definitely be there. Araya said that although government officials have different ideas and viewpoints on how to govern, they want to communicate with the people.
“The government is open to us,” Araya said. “It is open to hear the people, it is open to do things and help our community.”