Activists hold conference for all who care

Open Doors and Open Hearts is an upcoming conference, put together by a dedicated group of socially active people of […]

Open Doors and Open Hearts is an upcoming conference, put together by a dedicated group of socially active people of diverse faiths and backgrounds. Former prison inmates, people in recovery, government and community service professionals, and representatives from Twin Cities-based spiritual communities will cooperatively share viewpoints and ideas. The conference will be a time of reflection, meditation and growth. The conference is 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, October 11 at the Recovery Church, West Campus, Wesley United Methodist Church, 101 East Grant Street, Minneapolis, next to the Minneapolis Convention Center.

When people who are released from prison or those in recovery are made to feel invisible, one must ask, what more can be done to be a more inclusive and welcoming society and community? That is a question asked by Reverend John Hunter, an ordained minister who formed a ministry for ex-offenders in North Minneapolis. Hunter believes the conference is important for any community. “Why we need a conference like this is because it brings us all together, all of the resources, and it brings communities together to better serve inmates so inmates can be better servants to the home, community and church,” said Hunter, pastor at First Community Recovery Church.

“Should communities be concerned about felons coming out of prison?” said Lyle Wildes, a member of Men as Peacemakers and a former prison inmate. “We should be concerned about anyone moving into or living in our community who feels invisible and disconnected to it, felon or non-felon. I’ve heard drug dealers talk about those special people they wouldn’t sell drugs to. Why? They felt connected to them in some positive way.”

Through a process called “Open Space,” all conference participants will have an equal opportunity to be heard and to identify the issues and opportunities about which they are most passionate. These meaningful conversations, held in concurrent sessions during the day, will provide the basis for recommendations and next steps. While the specific results aren’t known, the process will generate interactive learning, inspirational visions, surprising partnerships, heart-felt community, and transformative outcomes.

“We do transformational workshops inside prisons and jails, and during re-entry,” said Alternatives to Violence Project Coordinator, Erika Thorne. Many felons have indicated that while housing, jobs and food are the most urgent concerns for recently-released inmates, the programs that provide them aren’t fully utilized by an individual without consistent spiritual support in some form.”

“We hear about prison and mental health reform,” said conference project director Vern Bloom. “I’m certainly in favor of that. We also need ’community reform.’ We need to be much more inclusive than we have been with these folks. And all of us need to be part of this effort!”

To show compassion to each other is one way to make our cities, streets and community safer places to live for all people. To force people into invisibility with guns or restrictive acts or disconnection or silence who’ve been released from prison and who are in recovery from treatment for mental illness only reinforces the negativity of punishment.

Everyone is invited to join us in this groundbreaking, highly interactive event for all those who care about more open and inclusive spiritual communities. The conference is free but you need to preregister. Space is limited, so please register early. Please use email if possible, oct11conference@aim.com or call: 651-644-5851. Be sure to include name, address, phone number, email, and organization (if any). For further information or questions: call or e-mail Cal Appleby at 612-929-0901, or lafscal@aol.com

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