On Valentine’s Day, members of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care led a “Love Ambush” action & interfaith fellowship prayer vigil for universal health care at the capitol. The group stood vigil outside the SustiNet cabinet meeting and then led a procession to the Governor’s office where they delivered hundreds of “valentines,” asking to expand access to health care and addressing racial and ethnic health disparities.
We had a chance to catch up with the one of the lead organizers, Kasif Abdul-Karim, resident Iman of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, who shared his thoughts with us on the reasons behind organizing the ambush.
HJCT: What were the thoughts behind the “Love Ambush”?
KAK: We’ve had a conflicting relationship with the governor’s office in terms of opinions on universal healthcare. When we started our work on this issue, the Governor supported this program and appeared to be on the same page with us. But when the healthcare bill was signed and brought into law, he did not ensure that the details we spoke of come to fruition. Because of this, we felt the need to remind the Governor, on Valentine’s Day, of his love and commitment to universal healthcare.
HJCT: What was the Governor’s response?
KAK: We held a pray vigil outside of the SustiNet building, and then we marched to the Governor’s office to deliver the valentines. Due to security reasons, only two members of the group were allowed to present the valentines to the Governor’s office. We were told by a representative that the Governor was not in and as a result we did not receive a formal response.
HJCT: Did you believe your message for universal healthcare was conveyed successfully?
KAK: Yes – absolutely. We had 75 clergy and community members that day who stated that they wanted universal healthcare. One of the messages that we wanted to convey was that this was not an insurance issue – it’s an equality issue.
HJCT: What would be the ideal result?
KAK: A fair exchange program. We want healthy options, where we can reduce disparities in the system. We want everyone to have equal access to healthcare.
HJCT: Do you believe that disparities will be reduced with a universal health plan?
KAK: The disparities issue is a bigger issue that go beyond healthcare. We believe equal access to healthcare will address some of the disparities issues, but we do not want to address these two issues separately. That’s why our call to action includes eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities.
HJCT: It’s wonderful to see the faith-based communities mobilizing around this issue. What do you believe is the intersection of religion and healthcare?
KAK: All our prophets and religion tells us we need to be involved in healing and care for the sick– this is the cross lines in all our faiths and we have to work together to ensure that people are properly cared for and healed equally.
Image credit by Jaime Myers-McPhail, Connecticut Center for a New Economy