April was a season of holy days — a time of reflection, devotion and renewal as Passover, Ramadan, and the Christian Holy Week aligned. While our beliefs and traditions diverge, a message unites us: through our faith, we are to care for one another, to lift one another up, and to help those who are less fortunate.
As faith leaders, we feel a moral duty to fight poverty in our state and around the globe. We believe our government shares that same obligation and must do the necessary work in our communities while also supporting forward-thinking initiatives like CT Baby Bonds, designed to help the poor and reduce the wealth gap in our state.
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The chasm between rich and poor in Connecticut is among the largest in the nation. This state is blessed in so many ways, but at the same time, nearly half of our babies are born into poverty. These children start out their lives, literally from day one, with the deck stacked against them. In 2021, our state legislature passed innovative CT Baby Bonds legislation, which is meant to address our state’s shameful wealth gap and give these children a better chance to reach their full potential.
The baby bonds concept has been studied for years by scholars and economists, and they agree that it is one of the most effective ways available to fight generational poverty and wealth inequality. When a child is born into poverty, funds are invested on their behalf and managed by the state Treasurer’s office. When the child reaches the age of 18 and completes a financial education requirement, that young person is able to access the CT Baby Bonds funds and use that money for specific, targeted purposes that have been proven to reduce the wealth gap. They can do things like pay for higher education, put a down payment on a home, or even start a business in Connecticut. These are things that will set up these young people for a stable future — breaking the cycle of poverty and changing the trajectory of their lives.
Our holy texts instruct us to help those in poverty. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus showed love and mercy to the poor while calling upon his followers to take action to assist them. In Judaism, the concept of tzedakah promotes not only charity for those in need, but a promotion of societal fairness and justice. Giving is among the Five Pillars of Islam and is seen as part of living a righteous life.
In addition to our obligations through faith, as members of the Connecticut community, we want better opportunities for our fellow worshipers and our neighbors.
Poverty causes both physical suffering and spiritual distress. We are called upon to be agents of change in the world, so we can and should help to alleviate that suffering through our charitable works and our advocacy for policies that promote social justice and equality. We come together today to urge our lawmakers to find common ground and fund this groundbreaking program that we believe will make Connecticut a better, fairer place to live for everyone.
Advocating for the poor is an essential way of demonstrating love and compassion. As this holiest of seasons closes, we ask you to support CT Baby Bonds and its goal of lifting our residents out of poverty. By easing suffering and promoting human dignity, we help to bring hope and healing to our most vulnerable citizens. That, we believe, is part of our sacred duty.
Archbishop LeRoy Bailey, Jr.; Sr. Elaine Betoncourt; Dr. Khaled Elleithy; Rev. Shawn Fisher; Rev. William McCullough and Rabbi Michael Pincu.