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The City Urban Perspectives

Student Organizes Conference on Theology and Local Workers' Issues

Justice at Work

By Hannah Notess ( | Photo by Luke Rutan

Tim Dyk
Tim Dyk

In 2011, Seattle Pacific University student Tim Dyk worked on a documentary film released in partnership with Youth With a Mission that exposed the harm done by sex trafficking in the U.S. It sparked the senior global development major's interest in economic justice —; not just for those forced to work against their will, but also for those mistreated on the job.

“It seemed like a natural connection,” he says. “Where people are being mistreated, that's where the church has a role to play.”

So he took an internship with Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago-based nonprofit that aims to encourage faith leaders to become advocates on issues such as wage theft, paid sick days, and workers' rights to organize.

Dyk's assignment was to connect with Seattle-area pastors and inform them about Seattle-area efforts to get better treatment for workers.

“I had to communicate to people that it was more than some political agenda,” he says. “If we care about people living in poverty, we will care about the systems that put them there.”

As part of his internship, Dyk helped to organize the Isaiah 58 Summit for Economic Justice, hosted by SPU's John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development in November 2012.

Quest ChurchQuest Church in Seattle hosted one session of the SPU Perkins Center’s Isaiah 58 Summit for Economic Justice. Photo by Tim Dyk.

Keynote speaker Soong Chan Rah, author of The Next Evangelicalism and a professor at North Park Seminary in Chicago, talked about the need for wealthy Christians to listen to the stories of Christians living in poverty.

“If we really desire to know the fullness of who Jesus is, then we need our theology, our life experience, our ministry, and our ecclesiology to intersect with those whose stories are vastly different from ours,” Rah said.

Following Rah's message, several pastors and union organizers spoke about projects in Seattle, such as an effort to get better wages for downtown hotel workers.

“I've learned through this project a lot about the Christian faith and its concept of welcoming the stranger,” said Jasmine Marwaha, an organizer with Unite HERE Local 8. “That's exactly what hospitality workers do — and yet a lot of these workers don't feel welcome in their own city.”

Tali Hairston, director of the SPU Perkins Center, also noted that “our namesake, John Perkins, has been involved all his life with engaging the issues of workers' rights and justice for all.”

Dyk, who graduates after Winter Quarter, hopes to stay involved in advocacy.