FLEMINGTON, N.J. – Over the course of one weekend, faith leaders across Hunterdon focused on a singular message.
They are members of One Voice, a coalition that also includes the Hunterdon County Prosecutor's Office and the Safe Communities Coalition.
“Each year, the One Voice steering committee decides on a topic and date for the faith leaders to address their congregations,” said Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III in a press release. “The same message is then delivered in the appropriate way for each denomination. It's the information that matters, and each pastor, rabbi, imam or other faith leader will present it in his or her own way.”
This year, he said leaders spoke to their congregations about the ongoing - and worsening - heroin epidemic effecting Hunterdon.
This year’s summit took place over the same weekend as the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“As we mourn the victims and send our prayers to their families, we renounce the hatred and bigotry behind the attack,” Kearns said, adding that efforts remain underway to “protect Hunterdon County’s faith-based organizations and the community.”
According to One Voice, the goal is "to have 'one voice' when addressing today's difficult challenges like substance abuse, crime and the safety of our community. Social level change can be achieved with all groups working together, delivering the same message."
Faith leaders were asked to alert their communities to the “profound-life threatening dangers of heroin/opiate addiction," Kearns said. "We further asked them to look inward to their own communities with the understanding that a lack of connectedness and loneliness often precipitates addiction.”
It seems possible that this disconnectedness is caused in part because “we are more connected with technology than ever before,” he said, “while at the same time, less connected from a human relationship point of view. As a result of this disconnectedness, people are in a great deal of pain and heroin/opiates are often used to numb that pain.”
"Faith leaders have a strong and respected voice within their congregations and can make a huge impact in their community, especially in regards to substance abuse prevention," said Safe Coalition Project Director Lesley Gabel in the statement.