Thursday, March 29, 2012

Praying for airport jobs at Philadelphia International (KPHL), Pennsylvania

Bishop Dwayne Royster took a stroll through Philadelphia International Airport's terminal C with a few friends Thursday. Dressed in vestments, kippahs and hijabs, the walkers prayed for what they say Philadelphia needs the most.

Jobs. Airport jobs, to be exact.

Royster is the executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Power and Rebuild, an interfaith advocacy group comprised of 36 Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations from across the city.

POWER organized the prayer walk, its first public action, in response to the airport's $6 billion expansion project. About 50 clergy members marched in silence, a symbol of the city's "voiceless" unemployed, who they believe should get first crack at the jobs created by the expansion.

But why come in full regalia?

"We're here to say with no ambiguity that God stands with those who struggle with unemployment," Royster said.

The group supports the airport's expansion project but wants Mayor Nutter and the airlines brokering it to keep these out-of-work Philadelphians in mind.

"This airport has the opportunity to bring life to the city's marginalized communities," said Rabbi Linda Holtzman, one of the event's organizers. "The jobs created by this expansion need to go to those of greatest need - that's our demand."

Elizabeth Johnson is one of those people in need. After her husband was laid off last year, her family lost their home.

"I found myself at the shelter, declaring that I was homeless," she said. "I couldn't understand how I got into this situation."

Johnson joined POWER's prayer walk to help spread the group's message.

"No one should be left suffering alone," she said. "These are tough times, and we need to help our neighbors."

A spokesperson for Nutter office said that the expansion project could create "tens of thousands of construction jobs" in addition to 3,000 permanent positions.

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