(Christina House/Tribune News Service)

(Christina House/Tribune News Service)

Faith calls us to forgive rent debt

By Hatem Bazian, Joanna Lawrence Shenk, Laura Rumpf and Zarina Kiziloglu

As leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities in the Bay Area, we call upon state leaders to support all renters and small landlords devastated during the pandemic. Lawmakers took a good first step by extending the statewide eviction moratorium to June 30 and by providing some rental assistance with the passage of Senate Bill 91, but more is needed.

The Torah tells us, “There shall be no needy among you — therefore I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kin in your land.” This is our collective responsibility. Our congregations are doing what we can to support those in need, but a systemic crisis of this scale requires a systemic response.

Lawmakers must now develop long-term solutions to address the mounting rental debt looming over tenants. Californians are currently more than $3.7 billion behind on rent because of work closures and job loss during the pandemic. The latest federal stimulus package gave California $2.6 billion for rental assistance, but that won’t cover every struggling renter or small landlord. By the time California receives its next round of federal stimulus funding, that mountain of debt will grow. Our lawmakers must prioritize the needs of those most harmed by housing instability when filling that large and growing gap. Our collective health and economic recovery depends on it.

The Prophet Muhammad taught Muslims to forgive the debts of those struggling with poverty. The reward for the one who forgives debts is God’s forgiveness. In other words, the one who gives, also receives. If we ensure that the renters most impacted by the pandemic can stay in their homes long-term, our collective reward will be a healthy California—where people can shelter-in-place, take care of their families, and we can move quickly to end the pandemic’s deadly toll.

Christians accept that God’s presence is continually arriving in the world to undo injustice and liberate those who are oppressed. The hardest-hit renters right now are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and Latinx. These communities have already faced the worst COVID infection and mortality rates, and now the worst of COVID’s economic effects. This is an injustice we must collectively work to undo.

The extended eviction moratorium and rental relief are important steps, but the next step toward restructuring a broken system, is to protect every struggling renter and small landlord from losing their home during the pandemic and its aftermath. We need our state lawmakers to open their hands, forgive our crippling debts, and create a more just housing system now.

Professor Hatem Bazian is chair of the Northern California Islamic Council, co-founder and Professor of Islamic Law and Theology at Zaytuna College, and a lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Asian American and Asian Diaspora Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Reverend Joanna Lawrence Shenk is pastor at the First Mennonite Church of San Francisco, co-producer of “The Iconocast” podcast and author of The Movement Makes Us Human and Widening the Circle: Experiments in Christian Discipleship.

Rabbi Laura Rumpf is rabbi at Peninsula Temple Beth El.

Zarina Kiziloglu is a leader with Genesis of the Tri-Valley and former Board Member of Muslim Community Center – East Bay, as well as a Housing Commissioner for the City of Pleasanton who recently obtained her Masters in Public Policy at California State University – East Bay.

Housing and HomelessnessOpinionPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

Neighbors and environmental advocates have found the Ferris wheel in Golden Gate Park noisy and inappropriate for its natural setting. <ins>(</ins>
Golden Gate Park wheel wins extension, but for how long?

Supervisors move to limit contract under City Charter provision requiring two-thirds approval

San Francisco school teachers and staff will be able to get vaccinations without delay with the recent distribution of priority codes. 
Shutterstock
SF distributes vaccine priority codes to city schools

San Francisco has received its first vaccine priority access codes from the… Continue reading

Charles Joseph, who is represented by the San Francisco Public Defender’s office, is facing deportation to Fiji. <ins>(Courtesy photo)</ins>
Giving immigrants a second chance after incarceration

Legislation would allow some faced with deportation a chance to challenge their old convictions

The San Francisco Police Department released body camera footage of the alleged assault on Dacari Spiers. (Via SFPD Body Cam)
SF police officer to stand trial for assault over baton beating

A San Francisco police officer who prosecutors say unnecessarily beat a man… Continue reading

Most Read