On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) attended Arise Chicago’s annual Faith-Labor-Action Breakfast. The event was attended by over 500 people who represented all of the major faith and labor leaders across the Chicagoland. Executive Director, Khalil Demir, a board member on ARISE Chicago, shared a childhood story of his inspiration to fight against injustice.
When he was a small boy, he tended to sheep with his friend, Omar. One day, the sheep strayed into his neighbor’s fields. Although they were only twelve, the landlord dealt harshly with Omar. He caught them and proceeded to tie his friend’s feet and lower him into a well countless times while threatening to drown the boy for trespassing. Omar screamed, “Help, please! I’m going to die.”When everything was over, Mr. Demir grit his teeth and said “I will never ever allow an injustice to happen to any human being.”
If you are witness of an injustice and chose to ignore it, so will you be ignored when injustice confronts you. Mr. Demir ended his talk by saying we cannot ignore the suffering that consumes the world from Bangladesh to Chicago. The low prices we pay at a retailer have a direct impact on the labor forces that manufacture our products and we must acknowledge that.
The event was concluded with a brief fundraiser, facilitated by Mr. Demir, which led to a collection of $15,000.
Arise Chicago was founded by a diverse group of religious leaders in 1991 looking to address systemic poverty in the Chicagoland area. As the number of Chicago workers facing harsh working conditions grew, so did Arise Chicago. With the knowledge that all workers are created in the image of God and therefore deserving of dignity and respect, religious leaders supported workers who were seeking to leave poverty through organizing and unionization, and workers seeking better contracts so as to not slip into poverty.