Thursday, February 21, 2019

Call Your State Senators to Oppose Food Tax

It seems the idea of reimposing a gross receipts tax on groceries comes up every legislative session, and this year is no different. New Mexico Voices for Children and other organizations sounded the alarm about this possibility before the session began, and sure enough the food tax seems to have found its way into tax reform proposals in the State Senate. Santa Fe-based Think New Mexico offers an update and tells us why this regressive tax is a bad idea.

Food Tax: Here We Go Again!

With over $1 billion in new revenue and polls showing that 87% of New Mexicans oppose the food tax, we were hoping that the legislature wouldn't try to bring back a regressive tax on groceries this session.

Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Last Thursday, the final day for bill introductions, not one but two bills were introduced to reimpose the food tax: Senate Bill 584, sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chair John Arthur Smith and the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Steve Neville, and Senate Bill 585, sponsored by Senator Smith and Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle. (The food tax is also included in Senate Bill 421.)

The New Mexican and Albuquerque Journal newspapers published excellent front page articles this morning detailing the negative impact this regressive tax would have on New Mexico families.

Please email your state senator and the governor and urge them to oppose these and any other bills that bring back the regressive food tax!

New Mexico's tax system is badly in need of reform. It is undermined by more than 300 loopholes, exemptions, and deductions for a grab bag of interests ranging from fuel for space vehicles to professional boxing matches to sales of recreational vehicles. Yet rather than closing special interest loopholes, these bills go after the food tax exemption, the one exemption that benefits hundreds of thousands of low and middle income New Mexico families and that enjoys wide public support.

One of the core purposes of tax reform is to make New Mexico's tax system less idiosyncratic and more like the tax structures of other states. Two-thirds of the states (34) do not impose a sales tax on groceries. This includes our neighbors in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas.

A 2017 study by Ernst & Young that was commissioned by the New Mexico legislature found that the food tax would hit low-income New Mexicans three times harder than wealthier residents, since poorer families spend a higher percentage of their incomes on food.

The good news is that Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Speaker Brian Egolf have both taken strong stands against reimposing the food tax. However, we want to make sure that these bills don't gain any traction in the Senate, where powerful senators are pushing them.

Contact your state senator to urge him/her take the food tax off the table once and for all!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Support Annunciation House in El Paso

Annunciation House
Linda Swindle, Glenn Rosendale and other volunteers from Casa de las Comunidades Catholic Worker House in Albuquerque make frequent trips to El Paso to bring food, clothing and other items to Annunciation House and other organizations in that border community that support refugees. Here is a note from Linda about a recent trip as well as information on how we can help.

February 16, 2019
Dear Friends,

Yesterday, Glenn and I made our 9th trip to El Paso. The shelter/motel which has become our main contact was expecting 120 refugees that day, and expected to need space at a Budget Motel next door to accommodate the group.

A flustered volunteer showed us all the underwear they had to distribute, folded and stacked on a double bed, clearly inadequate to the onslaught of needs she was facing. For a panoramic view, consider that 500 refugees total were expected that day for all Annunciation House shelters.

Glenn will make an extra trip next Friday, February 22, and we both will go again on Friday March 1. We decided to concentrate our donation request on the following:
  • UNDERWEAR! children’s and small adults; (don’t forget men’s underwear, both briefs and boxers, colored if possible). Remember that these refugees are small. Youth 14-16 fits most men
  • MEDICINES: cold/cough/ decongestants, cough drops, pain medicines in the following categories: infant, under age 12, and adult
  • INDIVIDUAL SNACKS for traveling: cases of nutrition bars, fruit bars, Rice Krispy Treats (kids love them); small packets of nuts, cracker/peanut butter kits (eg. “Jif To-Go” at Sam’s Club/Costco, Austin’s Toasty peanut butter crackers)
  • INDIVIDUAL SHELF-LIFE MILK BOXES
  • SMALL BACKPACKS; also tote bags for adults
  • CASH as always, checks ok to “Annunciation House”
If you prefer to contribute by mail, go to annunciationhouse.org where you can donate by PayPal, or mail your check to Annunciation House, 815 Myrtle Ave, El Paso, TX 79901

With exception of Annunciation House, most shelters have no kitchens and rely on local families to supply 3 meals a day (!), we don’t have room for bulk ingredients such as pancake mix.

To arrange contact, text or call Glenn (505-489-8100) who lives in SE Albuquerque and Linda (505-515-6241) who lives in Taylor Ranch.

We are so grateful to have your support and prayers! As 6-month volunteer “Sue” said to us, it’s unimaginable to think of these refugees as criminals. Look at them. They are so hopeful, so thankful for anything, so eager to help.

Bless you all!

Linda and Glenn
Casa de las Comunidades Catholic Worker

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Bringing Food to Folks at the #ABQ Westside Housing Shelter

Homeless Helpers brings food to individuals staying at the Westside Emergency Housing Center. The facility, operated by the City of Albuquerque, offers a safe and welcoming environment to men, women and families experiencing homelessness in our metro area. The center provides only shelter, so a group called Homeless helpers has created system where volunteers bring food to those staying at the facility. Here is information on how you can help. 


Sandwiches: Sandwiches are the easiest to make and distribute. Peanut butter and jelly, Bologna, Ham & Cheese or any kind you choose. - Example - Ingredients for 300 PB&J Sandwiches: - 50-Loaves of Bread / 12-40oz jars of peanut butter (480ozs) / 14-32oz. jars of jelly (480ozs)

NOTE: If you choose to make a large crock pot type item, there is NO oven, stove or electrical outlet to warm food at the shelter. Please bring bowls & plastic utensils to serve food.

Snacks: The snacks can be any individual pre-wrapped items like cheese sticks, yogurt tubes, granola bars, cheese crackers, nuts, etc.. or of course you can make your own. Dessert: The snacks can be any individual pre-wrapped items like cookies, candy, rice crispy treats...or you can make your own.

Drinks: Drinks can be water, juice, lemonade, tea or anything pre-packaged. You can bring a jugs of lemonade, chocolate milk, tea, or juice. (You must bring cups if you bring a large jugs of drinks.) Anything extra you bring will be very much appreciated.

Additional Non-Perishable Items: Other non-perishable items can be brought to the shelter to distribute at coordinators discretion. Please inform coordinator prior to night to make sure items can be properly distributed. These items may include. New Socks, underwear. NOTE: These items may not all be distributed, so be prepared to take back any leftover items.

Bags: There is no need to put food in individual bags. We lay everything out on tables buffet style. Sandwiches together, snacks together, etc. Extra plastic bags (WalMart type) can be brought to give out as needed.

Meeting Point / Meeting Time: Meeting Point: We will meet at 7:00pm at Smiths parking lot (Golf Course & Paseo Del Norte) In of the Starbucks. The caravan will leave promptly at 7:10pm.

Shelter Location: It is about a 17 minute drive going West on Paseo Del Norte from Golf Course. (Old West Side Jail Near Double Eagle Airport)

On Location Distribution Time: 7:30pm - 9:00pmish.

Volunteers: Quantity - Minimum-4-8/ Optimum-8-12. There are 4 stations of food to distribute, so we need 1-2 people per station to effi-ciently distribute the food. Age: High School age and up. NOTE: High School aged volunteers can receive service hours: shopping, making, transporting and serving the meal. Parents are always welcomed and encouraged to attend. This is not school sponsored.

Recruiting/Registration/Sign Up: A Lead Volunteer will recruit 8-12 Volunteer Helpers. Once the Lead has FULL commitments from 8-12 volunteers, Please Sign up at SignUpGenius (link below) for your Homeless Helper Volunteer Weekend.

NOTE: You must get a FULL commitment from ALL 8-12 volunteers before you register for your weekend. You will be the only group as-signed to that weekend, cancellations are not an option.

Sign Up Here (via SignUpGenious) If you do not have an account, you can search for registration by creator email mbaca16@comcast.net

QUESTIONS? Homeless Helpers Head Coordinator: Mary Baca (mbaca16@comcast.net)

Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Workshop on the 2019 Offering of Letters

I recently traveled to a mountain village in Guatemala called El Paraiso. In this country of great natural beauty, I saw the impact of hunger with my own eyes. Nearly all the children in this village are underweight for their age; they are chronically malnourished. In some parts of the highlands of Guatemala, as many as 7 in 10 children suffer from chronic malnutrition. It does not have to be this way. God has made it possible for us to end hunger in our lifetime.    -David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World       (See USAID Nutrition Profile for Guatemala)
Join us at our Offering of Letters workshop in Albuquerque

Saturday, March 16, 2019
9:30-Noon
La Mesa Presbyterian Church (conference room)
7401 Copper, NE

We will hold a conversation on the topic of letters for 2019, entitled "Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow." The discussion will led by Carlos Navarro, volunteer state coordinator for Bread for the World in New Mexico. Here is a brief dscription of the campaign:
"Better nutrition today means a better tomorrow for millions of women and children around the world," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World "That's why, beginning in 2019, Bread for the World will work with you to mobilize the political will to make this a policy priority and to take a new approach to scale up what we know works in helping improve the nutrition of women and children — including making global nutrition the focus of our 2019 Offering of Letters."
Photo from NACA website
Special Guest
Our special guest at the meeting is Kara Bobroff, founding principal of the Native American Community Academy and a new member on the national board of directors of Bread for the World. Kara--who would have just returned from her first board meeting in early March--will offer additional information about the OL as well us tell us about her work to promote education among Native youth in New Mexico and elsewhere. She will also discuss her overall vision of how we can come together to address hunger within tribal communities, our state of New Mexico, and our nation.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Mary Oliver on Praying

Praying 

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch


a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

Mary Oliver,
(from the collection Thirst)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Nuns on the Bus in New Mexico: Call to Action and a Listening Session

Whenever Sister Simone Campbell and the sisters and laity that travel with her come to your community, you expect a motivational speech urging us to stand for the poorest among us and to speak truth to power.

To be sure, Sister Simone, founder of the Nuns on the Bus campaign, rallied folks at the Roundhouse at the 10th Annual Witness for the People gathering in Santa Fe on Wednesday and to a couple of hundred people gathered at St. Therese Little Flower Parish later that evening. 

A few of the people gathered at St. Therese
'Minding the Gap'
At St. Therese, Sister Simone spoke about our nation's disparities and the unfair nature of our economy. The disparities are exacerbated by a system of taxation that is overwhelmingly favorable to the wealthiest individuals and detrimental to working families and those at the bottom of the economy.

Our call as people of faith and conscience, she said, was to become aware of the gap and act accordingly. (She alluded to a term used in the subway system in London urging us to "mind the gap)

To illustrate the scope of the problem, Sister Simone asked for seven volunteers to represent people from different income groups, from the poorest of the poor to the One percent. The exercise served to illustrate the gap between the haves and have-nots, as well as the challenges facing each group, including the middle class.

According to Sister Simone, our efforts are important to ensure that the needs of the 100 percent (all members of society) are taken into account. "We have chosen inadvertently or intentionally to support the top One Percent," Sister Simone said in describing our economic policies over the past several decades.

Three Virtues
In discerning our response to the challenge around us, Sister Simone recommended three virtues we must follow: holy curiousity (listen to the stories of people around you), sacred gossip (where you tell about the stories that you've heard and let folks know that there are situations that are unacceptable) and joy (we have to find joy in this in engagement)

Here is a 10-minute video of a small portion of Sister Simone's presentation at St. Therese.



Roundtable discussion at Second Presbyterian Church
Exercising Holy Curiousity
While a visit from Nuns on the bus is often associated with efforts to rally the community and hold politicians accountable, Sister Simone and others involved with NETWORK also come to listen and learn more about the issues affecting the people who live in a given state.

This year, NETWORK has launched a campaign to connect with people in states with high rural populations, and New Mexico was chosen as the first stop.

At a roundtable discussion at Second Presbyterian Church with representatives of several groups with connections to the community. Sister Simone listened and questions. This discussion was held on the Tuesday evening before the rally in Santa Fe.

Many topics were discussed in Albuquerque, including our very inequitable system of taxation and the resulting disparity in income, the legacy of colonialism and exploitation, the existence of food deserts, the challengers for working families in rural and urban areas, environmental racism against Native peoples and poor communities, the legacy of nuclear testing in our state, and much more.

Sister Simone and NETWORK plan to repeat the process in Minnesota, Ohio and Missouri through March, and possibly in Pennsylvania and Indiana in subsequent months.
"Here in New Mexico we have such a diverse heritage that it's really a rich opportunity to witness to the rest of the nation the capacity to have a conversation and engagement among indigenous communities, (people of) Spanish heritage as well as white Anglo folks...that have come from the East mostly as well as the Mexican and Central American family...You all have the opportunity  That is probably one of the biggest needs of our society to know that we are all one..that  we are interdependent."

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Kids Cook! Develops WebApp to Promote Healthy Lifestyle

The Monthly meeting of the Interfaith Hunger Coalition on Tuesday, January 29, will feature a presentation from Kids Cook! and the healthy lifestyle WebAPP Fūdrr that the organization has created with  the support of the Presbyterian Center for Community Health.

Join us at First Presbyterian Church, I-25 and Martin Luther King, 12:00 Noon, on Tuesday, January 29, to learn more about how this new  n-line community resource is helping promote increased access to fresh produce for families in need.    

Leora Jaeger-Seigel and Mary Meyer will tell us how the WebApp works for schools and school children and for families in the Albuquerque area.

Fūdrr users--individuals and families--earn points/pennies that are redeemable for produce at local retailers, or can be donated to a low-income school, food pantry, or social service agency. The new version of this bilingual WebApp is planned for launch soon.  Check Out the  Fūdrr Facebook page
and Twitter account.  And here is the Kids Cook! Facebook page.

Users earn points when they:
  • Respond to fūdrr active living and healthy eating challenges and quizzes.
  • Post videos and photos of their healthy eating and active living experiences.
  • Learn about the benefits of healthy eating, active living, and dollar wise food choices.
  • Engage with friends, family members or health care providers on fūdrr.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Food Tax (Still Again!)

One of the top issues that will come up at the coming session of the New Mexico State Legislature is tax reform--and specifically changes to the gross receipts tax. One proposal would be to reduce the GRT and to remove exemptions that allow some private (larger) business to pay little or no taxes.

In the context of tax reform, anti-hunger advocates will be monitoring one proposal to reinstate a GRT on groceries (also known as the food tax). According to an article in The Albuquerque Journal on Thursday, this tax is likely to come up in the context of the tax overhaul discussion.
One sticking point in the tax overhaul debate will be whether to reinstate the gross receipts tax on food.

There has been fierce opposition to previous proposals to reinstate the food tax – after such a tax was repealed in 2004 – but a tax overhaul bill expected to be filed by Sen. Carlos Cisneros, a Questa Democrat, would do just that, likely starting in 2021.

The bill would be similar in other ways to the legislation that’s expected to be introduced by Trujillo, which would not include a food tax provision.
According to The Journal, Cisneros suggests that the implementation of a food tax would allow for a greater reduction in the general GRT.  That would not be beneficial to low-income families, who while paying a lower GRT on general goods, would now have to pay a tax on groceries.

The Journal article, entitled Tax overhaul high on legislative list, noted that the New Mexico Municipal League, which represents cities and towns statewide, supports at least a partial reinstatement of the food tax.

The Santa Fe-based newspaper The New Mexican quoted Bill Fulginiti, executive director of the NMML. "We advocate for an overall tax-rate reduction combined with a small local tax on food so that taxes generated by food purchases are returned to the community from which they were collected,"

To be fair, we shouldn't dismiss the genuine concerns from financially strapped small communities in New Mexico, which are seeking ways to enhance their sources of revenue. However, implementing a tax that would hurt the poorest families in their communities is not the way to go, especially with the high rates of poverty in rural New Mexico.

Anticipating that the tax would come up again in the 2019 legislative session, Columnist Milan Simonich of The New Mexican newspaper reiterated in December, 2018 that the food tax is a bad idea.
"It’s back in the form of a trial balloon, one that should be burst with gusto," Simonich wrote...Everybody has to buy groceries. The municipal league’s idea would harm people with the smallest incomes, those worrying about how they’re going to put food on the table."   See full article entitled, "Food tax should remain dead and buried"
A regressive tax
The move to reimpose the food tax seems to come up in some form or another almost every legislative session. And each time,  anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates (including the faith comunity) have spoken against this effort. We covered the opposition to the tax in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Here is a quote from Archbishop John Wester from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2016 
"We have recently seen in the media the discussion in legislative interim hearings of reinstating the food tax. This 'Tortilla Tax', as many have labeled it, only shifts the burden onto the poor and working families.  What makes this idea even more obscene is that New Mexico ranks second highest in the nation for children living in hunger and the first highest for children living in poverty.  Last year, 82% of births in New Mexico were Medicaid-eligible."   
The effort to reinstate the food tax failed in the 2018 legislative session, in part because of broad opposition from a variety of organizations  "The first committee to hear the bill tabled it after hearing opposition from a wide array of stakeholders, including the AARP, the New Mexico Chile Association, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the Center for Civic Policy, New Mexico Voices for Children, the National Association of Social Workers, and the New Mexico Coalition of Food Banks," said Santa Fe-based Think New Mexico, which has long opposed efforts to reintroduce the food tax.

Anti-hunger and anti-poverty organizations are ready to push back against the efforts to reimpose the food tax in the current legislative session. "This is really a backward step," said  James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, who cited a public opinion poll showing significant opposition to tax on groceries. Read more

“We’re really disappointed it’s even being entertained as a matter of discussion [in 2019] because it simply doesn’t make sense given New Mexico’s historic poverty levels.” added Jimenez.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Sister Simone Campbell to Speak at the Roundhouse Next Week


Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic Social Justice Lobby NETWORK and founder of the Nuns on the Bus movement, is the featured speaker at the 10th Annual Witness for the People Rally at the Roundhouse in Santa Fe on Wednesday, January 16.

The rally is sponsored each year by a coalition of social justice organizations, led by New Mexico Interfaith Worker Justice and New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light.

Sister Simone, a member of the Sisters of Social Service and author of A Nun on the Bus, is a lawyer, lobbyist, poet, and Zen contemplative working on issues such as “mending the wealth gap,” “enacting a living wage,” and “crafting a faithful budget that benefits the 100%.”

She is a powerful voice for longings so many of us share, across differences, about how to engage with the well-being of our neighbors in this complicated age.

Here is the schedule for her visit on Wednesday, January 16.

10-11:30 Legislative Briefing
Sr. Simone Campbell
Advocacy using an Ethical/Moral Framework
First Christian Church, 645 Webber St., Santa Fe, NM 87505
RSVP to joan@nm-ipl.org to get count for materials and snacks

12 Noon-1:00
Rotunda of Capitol in Santa Fe
Sr. Simone Campbell
New Mexico Peace Choir
Faith Leader Prayers
visits to legislative offices

6:30 pm
Sr. Simone Campbell
St. Therese Church
3424 4th Street NW, Albuquerque
"Nuns on the Bus: Living a Faith that does Justice and Community"
With information tables and opportunities to get involved

Sunday, January 06, 2019

A Fundraiser Honoring the Late Allen Toussaint

Allen Touissant was one of the founders of New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness, so it's very fitting that the organization's annual fundraiser is entitled Allen Toussaint's Legacy of Caring in honor of the great New Orleans musician. 

The event is scheduled for Saturday, January 12,  at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Mint, 400 Esplanade Ave., 8:00-9:30 p.m.

Check out this five-minute (actually 5:27) video below to hear a song depicting the history and mission of NOAHH, including the role of Toussaint and Aaron Neville in helping create the organization to raise funds for programs that help address hunger and homelessness in New Orleans. 


Jon Cleary at the French Quarter Festival 2018
Over the years, many prominent musicians (and other entertainers) from New Orleans and elsewhere have helped with the cause. Supporters include such well-known names as Jimmy Buffett, Irma Thomas, Paul Simon, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, the Dixie Cups, among others. See full list

This year's fundraiser features Jon Cleary, Ivan Neville, David Torkanowsky, George Porter Jr., Tony Hall and Raymond Weber (click on the links to see YouTube or Vimeo videos on each of the artists).

Tickets for the event are only $50 and available here.

Food Insecurity Summit Postponed Until Spring


"We are sorry to inform you that the 2019 APS/Delta Dental Food Insecurity Summit [originally scheduled for January 8] will be postponed until [sometime in] the spring. We will retain your contact information and reach out to you once a new date has been selected.

We apologize for the inconvenience and encourage you to remain involved. Together we can end children’s food insecurity."

Sincerely,
The DDNM CARES Team
Delta Dental of New Mexico

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Experiencing the Parliament of The World's Religions in Toronto

A handful of folks from New Mexico attended the Parliament of The World's Religions in Toronto on Nov. 1-7, 2018, including Carolyn Good, Charlotte Smith, Justin Remer-Thaemert, Donna Kangeter, Grandmother FlordeMayo. These are just the folks we know were at this gathering. There were probably others. Here is an account from Donna Kangeter.

By Donna Kangeter

My introduction to the Parliament of The World's Religions came from an unlikely source. I had been reading Sri Ramakrishna’s work and found his ideas, based on his own experience very affirming and comforting. Although he was an advanced practitioner of the Vedic tradition, he had had direct, unitive experiences in other spiritual traditions.

Based on his firsthand experience, Sri Ramakrishna taught his students that all religious paths lead to the One, God. That all paths are valid and worthy of respect. In 1893 Sri Ramakrishna sent his student, Vivekananda, to the first Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. Here are a couple of statements from Vivekananda’s speech to the Parliament on 09/11/1893.

“I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.”

And…

“I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death – knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.”

I found Sri Ramakrishna’s work compelling. It confirmed what I had been learning over time. The Parliament of World Religions presented an opportunity to meet and learn from people from the world’s religions who held similar convictions: to respectfully acknowledge our diversity, and see that diversity as a strength in pursing universal goals.

The Path to Toronto
Here it is nearly ten years later. I learned in early spring 2018 that the Parliament of World Religions would meet in Toronto, in November. I found myself wondering how I would manage to attend, this the 125th Anniversary of the Parliament.


During an event held at the Baha’i Center here in Albuquerque, I happened to mention my interest in attending this year’s Parliament to my friend, Charlotte Smith. Charlotte had attended the last Parliament in Salt Lake City and suggested we go as volunteers. We applied and were accepted; it reduced our registration cost from $300-$400 to $60. $10 for background check, $50 for registration!

Charlotte and I arrived on Oct. 31, in Toronto, a day early to get settled into our airbnb. The following day, Thursday, November 1st the Parliament officially opened. This year’s theme was, “The Promise of Inclusion, The Power of Love: Pursuing Global Understanding, Reconciliation, and Change. It was held in the Metro Toronto Convention Center (MTCC), a huge facility, 600,000 sq. ft. spread over 2 buildings connected by an indoor bridge.

Grandmother Flordemayo's Facebook page
Encountering a Curandera from Estancia
On Thursday while Charlotte went off to meet the Baha’i community in a neighborhood home, I took the two subway lines (half-an-hour trip) to the MTCC. A tour of the facility was planned for the volunteers. Following lunch, with a fellow volunteer from Iran, Narges and I went to the Indigenous Peoples opening ceremony, outdoors, in the rain. (Interestingly, Grandmother Flordemayo, a Curandera from Estancia, N.M., was at the airport luggage claim the day before as I waited to grab my suitcase. She sat in a dry place under the tent during this opening ceremony).

While the sessions and individual panels would not begin until Friday, there were plenty of interesting exhibits and installations to take in along the halls and walkways of the MTCC.

One highlight was the Quilt of Belonging



Other compelling exhibits included The Climate Ribbon Tree: A Ritual Space for Hope and Healing; 117 Million “Missing” Woman; (this was an exhibit of 11,700 pairs of baby booties, each representing 10,000 “missing” (dead) women and girls displayed in a floor to ceiling maze filling 2,000 sq. ft.; Divine Women Protectors; large banners of feminine Deity: Kuan Yin, Kali, Durga, Sarasvati and others; and large placards on the wall between the North and South buildings delineating the tenets of the world’s Religions. These are only a few of the many exhibits and installations that were scattered throughout the MTCC.

A full venue of films played throughout the Parliament as well. On Wings of Fire: The Prophet Zarathushtra and a Brief History of Zoroastrianism was the only film I attended.

Plenary: Inclusion and Love
Charlotte and I arranged to meet later Thursday afternoon at the MTCC. That evening we attended the opening Plenary session: The Promise of Inclusion, the Power of Love. Although there were eight presenters scheduled to speak, interspersed with performances, we listened to three. Wande Abimbola, President/Founder of the IFA Heritage Institute, Nigeria; Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of the NGO and magazine, Sojourner; and Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, Religious scholar, activist and educator; Senior Religion Fellow for the Sikh Coalition. The performers included Ernie Toller with the Unity in Diversity Choir and Move The World Dance Group. As Charlotte and I had a half hour commute to our airbnb, we usually left the evening Plenaries early.

The next three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I “worked” as a room monitor. Basically I kept presenters and panelist on time, so the next session would begin as scheduled. I began at 12 noon, and finished my shift at 4PM. Here are a few of the sessions I monitored. Wicca As A Global Religion: Entering the Next Generation; Autistic Inclusion in Religious Environments; A Jain Approach to Inclusive and Sustainable Solutions to Intercultural and Inter Religious Conflict; The Hizmet Movement: Inclusion, Love, Global Understanding and Change. This last panel was of special interest to me, as I had never heard of the Hizmet movement. “Hizmet” means service in Turkish. All the members on this panel had come to Canada seeking asylum from a tyrannical government leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. When I returned to Albuquerque, I confirmed my hunch; the Raindrop Foundation is associated with the Hizmet movement. 

After I finished my shift at 4PM and all day Monday and Tuesday, I was free to choose from the 30 to 40 panels and sessions that were scheduled simultaneously, in addition to films, or performances. The Dances of Universal Peace gathered twice daily in the open spaces on the second floor, the communication hub of the Parliament or next to the escalators on the 4th floor. Musicians and dancers would commence, while many looked on as they rode the escalator. Late in the Parliament I visited the Red Tent. It was a peaceful oasis for women to enter into quiet reflection or simply to rest. There were plush rugs and pillows, a few comfortable chairs inside this women only tent space.

Karen Armstrong
Other Prominent Speakers
On Saturday, I attended the evening Plenary: The Understanding Plenary. There I got to hear my long time hero, Karen Armstrong (Creator of the Charter for Compassion, religious historian and author) speak. Additionally, Dr. Weiming Tu, (Founding Director of the Institute of Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University) and Rev. Elijah Brown (General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance) also presented during this Plenary. There were three others slated to speak, however Charlotte and I left after hearing the first three speakers.

I thought I would list a few of the sessions I chose to attend in my free time here: The 2015 Inaugural Women’s Assembly of Major Speakers Legacy Session. It was moderated by Phyllis Curott; Wiccan Priest, Lawyer and co-founder of the Parliament’s Woman’s Task Force. Grandmother Flordemayo prayed over the assembled group of women, panelists and a few men. Panelists included Dr. Vandana Shiva, Enviornmentalist; Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, Psychiatrist; Bishop Barbara Lewis King, Founding Minister /World Spiritual Leader of the Hillside International Truth Center, Inc.; Mother Maya Tiwari, Ayurvedic pioneer. I left the session early to meet up with Charlotte. After grabbing some dinner, we went to the evening Plenary.

In addition to the Assembly, I attended: The Global Interfaith Movement for Human Rights of LGBTI People; Multiple Religious Belonging: Promises and Perils; Shades of the Divine: A Divine Mystical Understanding of the Vibration of Race and How to Transform It Into Unified, Peaceful Harmony; and Gender Fluidity in Gurbani: An Exploration of the Female Voice in Sikh Scripture.

Justin's Award
As most folks know by now, Justin Remer -Thamert received the PoWR Justice award at the Parliament during the Reconciliation Plenary. It was an exciting moment! Larry Greenfield, Executive Director of the Parliament, presented the award. Unfortunately, time was short, and Justin was not permitted to share his acceptance speech he had worked on for hours. Justin received a standing ovation in spite of not having an opportunity to speak!

Reviewing my experiences of the Parliament of World Religions has been a bitter sweet experience. As I went through the program, I saw so many sessions, panels and events I would have loved to attend. There was so much happening. Even so, attending the Parliament was a rich experience; exhilarating and exhausting, emotionally and spiritually challenging, irresistibly engaging.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Senator Heinrich Comments on Recent Passage of Farm Bill

"We must...do more to ensure no child is hungry and that all of our kids have the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. That's why I'm proud that we successfully fought back against efforts to impose harmful eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into the Farm Bill. SNAP provides affordable food for New Mexico families in need. We should be working to find solutions that help level the playing field for hard-working families instead of pulling the rug out from under those who are struggling."
Photo of then Rep. Heinrich (2009)
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last week to support a Farm Bill that by all accounts is beneficial to efforts to address hunger in our country and overseas.  The four members of the New Mexico Congressional delegation who participated in the vote supported the initiative. Here is a letter that Sen. Martin Heinrich sent to his constituents.

Dear New Mexico Constituent:

I grew up helping my parents run a small cattle operation, which is where I learned to truly value the hard work farmers and ranchers do each and every day to produce the food we eat. In New Mexico, our farmers, dairy producers, and ranchers help drive the state's economy and are an integral part of our history. That's why I worked so hard to pass the 2018 bipartisan Farm Bill this month.

The Farm Bill will deliver agricultural funding and set our nation's food policy for the next five years. It provides certainty for New Mexico's farmers so they can continue producing and contributing to our economy. The bill has far reaching impacts that include expanded opportunities for veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers, protections for our land and water, investments in high-speed internet access in rural and tribal communities, and support for important food and nutrition programs.

In an era of severe drought, extreme fires, and climate disruption, we must take steps to promote long-term sustainable use of New Mexico's land and water. That's why I'm especially pleased the Farm Bill includes my provisions to improve the health and resiliency of New Mexico's forests and watersheds and reduce the risks of costly catastrophic wildfires. My measures will provide New Mexico communities with substantial resources and the best available science so we can complete large, landscape-scale forest restoration projects and sustainably use our limited water resources.

We must also do more to ensure no child is hungry and that all of our kids have the opportunity to live a healthy and productive life. That's why I'm proud that we successfully fought back against efforts to impose harmful eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into the Farm Bill. SNAP provides affordable food for New Mexico families in need. We should be working to find solutions that help level the playing field for hard-working families instead of pulling the rug out from under those who are struggling.

I'm proud of the wins were able to secure for New Mexico in the 2018 Farm Bill. I won't stop working to advance policies that support job creation and opportunity, and help families benefit from our growing economy.

Sincerely,

MARTIN HEINRICH
United States Senator