Faith leaders gather in Downtown Fresno to inspire change

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As debates around racial, economic and environmental issues continue, a new organization in the Central Valley is taking action. Faith leaders and community members took to the Fresno Convention Center Saturday to inspire change.

More than 120 congregations from Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties came in droves for Faith in the Valley's "Lift" forum. Through song, testimony, education, and calls to action, the forum addressed issues like public safety, healthcare, race, the environment and the economy.

"When you look at national news and they talk about what's going on with poverty, air quality and job needs - we are at ground zero for what is needed," Rabbi Rick Winer with Temple Beth Israel said.

At a time when social media has become an outlet for public opinion, the forum offered people a way to express themselves away from the keyboard.

"Instead of Facebook, let's come face-to-face and talk about the book," Pastor DJ Criner of Saint Rest Baptist Church said. "And the book is the book of life that all people are created equally."

The packed house was filled with people from all walks of life with one common goal of making a better tomorrow for future generations.

"The purpose today is to remind people that hope is possible," Criner said.

"I think reaching such a diverse group of people is important. We have so many languages, religions, races, nationalities," said Jaylin White, a volunteer at Faith in the Valley. "It's important because it shows that Fresno isn't just one group of people, it's a whole lively group of people."

White, 16, has been volunteering with Faith in Community, now Faith in the Valley, for the last 3 years. The junior at Central East said though there are many complex issues throughout the region, every step counts.

"You see all these people smiling here ready to work, ready to serve," he said. "This is just a baby step. This is the first step and we're going to take it so much bigger."
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