Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Music, Film and Pottery: The Arts at the Center of Efforts to Alleviate Hunger and Homelessness in New Orleans

(from WLAE Video on Vimeo)

In April 2013, New Orleans Artists against Hunger and Homelessness (NOAAH) celebrated the 75th birthday of one of its founders, Grammy Award winner Allen Touiissant, as part if its annual benefit concert. The event was made into a full-length documentary film entitled A Tribute To Toussaint. The film will premiere on Wednesday, April 30, 7:00 p.m. at the Seventh Annual Sync Up Cinema Conference Film Screening at The New Orleans Museum of Art. The documentary also features performances by renown artists Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Jon Cleary, Cyril Neville, Joe Stampley and Joe Henry. Documentary interviews include Jimmy Buffett, Robert Plant, and Cyndi Lauper.  The event is Free and open to the public.

2014 Benefit with Empty Bowls Project
NOAAH's annual fundraiser this year will be a little more low key (but there will still be music! And Allen Touissant will also be there!).  The event will be held in conjunction with the New Orleans Empty Bowl Project on Sunday, May 11, at Rock-n-Bowl, 3000 South Carrollton Avenue,from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Empty Bowls is part of an international grassroots effort to fight hunger.

Admission is $30 and includes a complimentary bowl and bowling. Performing will be The Hot 8 Brass Band, recent Grammy nominees and featured in the HBO series (see video below). There will be a cash bar and food provided by Kajun Kettle and Southern Hospitality.

A silent auction will feature bowls glazed and signed by guest artists, including Allen Toussaint who will attend the benefit. Earth and Fire Studio in New Orleans was instrumental in coordinating potters from the region who have donated the 300 bowls for the May 11 benefit.

Click here for more information and tickets

Monday, April 14, 2014

Washing of the Feet Rituals in Rome and in Albuquerque

 "Washing feet [is] important to present the Lord's spirit of service and love."
-Rev Federico Lombardi, chief spokesman for The Vatican
The tradition of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday is based on John 13: 1-17, commemorating a ritual that was said to have taken place before the Last Supper. In what context should we take this Jewish tradition of ritual cleansing? Some view this tradition as merely a reenactment of what might have occurred when Jesus was gathered with his disciples for his last meal.  We miss an opportunity for spiritual growth if we view this as only a remembrance ritual.

"By dressing as a servant and undertaking the servile and humiliating task of washing feet, Jesus identifies the paradoxical manner in which God chooses to reveal himself," Peter Lopinski wrote in McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry. "The foot-washing episode parallels the account in Luke 22:27, wherein Jesus states: 'I am among you as one who serves'."

Pope Francis illustrated this on Holy Thursday of  last year when he  he washed the feet of two women at a Rome youth prison, a sharp contrast to his predessor, who the previous year washed the feet of 12 priests during a Mass in Rome's St. John Lateran Basilica. On Holy Thursday 2014, Pope Francis plans to visit the Centro Santa Maria della Provvidenza Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi home, where he will wash the feet of residents, many of whom are elderly and disabled.

Many communities across the country use the occasion as another opportunity to serve the homeless community. In Santa Barbara, CA., the organization Willbridge community has led a community service that includes non-profit organizations and churches.

Washing of the Feet at Albuquerque Rescue Mission
Locally, Albuquerque Rescue Mission will hold its annual Feet Washing for homeless and near homeless men, women and children this coming Saturday, April 19, from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon.

Staff and volunteers will provide those in need with shoes, socks, medical attention, as well as other services like blood pressure checks, dental consultations, and haircuts. Prayer and counseling will also be offered.

Any donation of shoes, socks, toiletries or candy for children’s Easter baskets can be dropped off at Albuquerque Rescue Mission, 525 2nd Street SW (phone number is 346-4673).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Food Distribution Center Opens in Truchas, New Mexico

(Photo courtesy of Mary Singleton)
If you saw the movie Milagro Beanfield War, then you're familiar with the scenery around the rural mountain community of Truchas in northern New Mexico. Robert Redord filmed this popular movie in this small community nestled in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1988..

The setting is also reminiscent of Collbran, Co., one of the locations where the the documentary A Place at the Table was filmed.  And there are parallels between Collbran and Truchas: both are communities with small populations that are experiencing hunger. Collbran has about 790 residents, while the population of Truchas is 560 (according to the 2010 census). There is another similarty: both communities are located about an hour away from the nearest city. Collbran is situated about 40 miles from Grand Junction, while Truchas is about 37 miles from Santa Fe. Despite the relatively small distances, the two communities are isolated enough that residents are not able to access services in the nearby big city. (I made an earlier comparison between Mesa County--where Collbran is located--and Grant County in southwest New Mexico).

First food distribution in Truchas on April 9 attracted 65 customers  (Photo courtesy of Mary Sngleton)
Food distribution twice a month  
You know the story in A Place at the Table.  Pastor Bob Wilson of the Plateau Valley Assembly of Good took frequent trips to Grand Junction to obtain food from the local food bank to supply a food pantry in the city. 

In the case of Truchas, the Truchas Services Center worked with The Food Depot food bank in Santa Fe to create a food distribution program in Truchas.  Mary Singleton, who serves as treasurer of  the board of the Truchas Services Center, said the organization had worked tirelessly over many weeks and months to open the distribution center. "This has been a long time dream of mine - after many years of writing letters we will actually get to provide food directly to our community!," said Ms. Singleton, a Bread for the World member who regularly organizes Offerings of Letters at Smith Memorial Presbyterian Church in Truchas. "It's hard to put in words what this means to me personally."  
On Wednesday, April 9, members of the community received the first food boxes. "We had about 65 customers which is huge for our small community," said Ms. Singleton,  "Working with the Food Depot in Santa Fe has been the key to making this happen.  They helped us put together a plan for food delivery and filled our order with so much more than we expected.  All the food was distributed in less than an hour."

Since 1974, the Truchas Services Center  has provided a variety of services to the community, including a  library, a preschool program, a community center and  a summer arts program. Add to those a twice-monthly food distribution program for residents of  Truchas and nearby communities (like Ojo Sarco, Cordova and Chimayo) 

And Smith Memorial Presbyterian Program offers the community the opportunity for anti-hunger advocacy. Last  year, Mary Singleton organized a few members of her church to participate in the 2013 Offering of Letters campaign, which centered on A Place at the Table and the lack of access to nutritious food for many residents of our country.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living Signs of Love

I receive daily e-mails from Gratefulness.org and from Sojourners (Verse and Voice) with spiritual and inspirational reflections. These reflections are usually quite different from each other. On rare occasions, the message is very similar, and this was the case this past Monday.  I share these reflections from Henri Nouwen and I. Carter Heyward.

Word for the Day
 Monday, Apr. 7
In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.  -Henri Nouwen
Verse and Voice 4.7.14

verse of the day
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.   - John 15:12-15

voice of the day
"In the Spirit which draws us into honest engagement with one another, including those who may be very different from us in various ways, God calls us to wake up and learn how to love and respect one another, period." - I. Carter Heyward

prayer of the day
Lord God, King of the Universe, we lift up our hands to you and ask you to help us bear the burden of injustice. Grant us a discerning spirit to follow your path to justice. Equip us with your patience and your grace so that as we walk with those who suffer, we might strengthen and uphold one another. Amen. - From Common Prayer

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Legal Right to Humanitarian Assistance (Two Online Discussions Sponsored by Doctors Without Borders)

Is Humanitarian Law Still Fit for Purpose?
Implications for Protection and Humanitarian Effectiveness

View the Live Webcast  

From Syria to the Central African Republic and South Sudan, today's conflicts remain characterized by appalling violence against civilians and recurrent obstruction to the delivery of humanitarian aid with blatant disregard for international humanitarian law (IHL). Paradoxically, IHL is one of the most widely accepted bodies of international law and has seen dramatic developments over the last decades, not least with the creation of international criminal jurisdictions, such as the International Criminal Court.

Moderator: Jérémie Labbé, Research Fellow for Humanitarian Affairs, International Peace Institute
Speakers: Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, Legal Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, Chief of Policy Development and Studies Branch, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Gabor Rona, International Legal Director, Human Rights First


Current Challenges in International Humanitarian Law: An MSF Field 
Join a panel of experts for an in-depth look at how applications of international humanitarian law impact MSF's responses to current emergencies in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and other conflict areas around the world.

MSF invites you to participate in a live webcast on Monday, April 14 at 8pm EDT to mark the release of the third English language edition of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law.  

This online panel discussion will feature the book's author and MSF legal specialist, Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, and two experienced MSF aid workers.  Drawing on their experiences from some of today's most violent conflict zones, the panelists will explore the challenges of ensuring armed groups respect international humanitarian law (IHL) and the safety of patients, health care workers, and medical facilities. They will also examine some of the tensions arising from the legal status accorded certain war-affected populations—whether refugees or internally displaced persons—and how this status affects their access to humanitarian assistance.

Register Here
(Viewer participation is encouraged via a chat feature available during the webcast).

Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, Doctor of Law and magistrate, is the legal director of MSF and former research director at the Foundation Médecins Sans Frontières. She is the author of The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law. 
Timothy Harrison, RN, recently completed a four-month mission with MSF in Malakal, South Sudan—one of that country's most contested areas in the ongoing civil war. Harrison, a Boston-area based nurse, will reflect on this experience and provide insights gained from his eight previous missions with MSF.
Anthony Thouvenin is the Logistics Supervisor for MSF operations in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Sudan. He recently returned from the border of Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), where he coordinated MSF's emergency project providing aid to those fleeing violence in CAR.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Pastor Urges Congregation to Participate in Offering of Letters With These Simple Words....

"This morning we have our letter writing campaign for Bread for the World...You can write a letter to your congressman and say 'I support the programs that help people who are [hungry]. And I want my political representatives to do the same.' It's so easy. God doesn't ask you to do what you can't do. God asks you to do what you can."

-Rev. Bob Campbell, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Community, Albuquerque (Sermon on Sunday, April 6)

Read More about 2014 Offering of Letters to reform food aid.

(Thanks to Larry Buelow for providing a video of Father Campbell's Sermon).

Monday, April 07, 2014

WFP Director Etharine Cousin: Touched by the Faces of Extreme Hunger

Photo: World Food Programme
Etharin Cousin, who was appointed as 12th executive director of the World Food Programme in April 2012, was the keynote speaker at a conference sponsored by the Institute of  International and European Affairs in Dublin, Ireland, in March 2014. Ms. Cousin talked about a visit to an exhibit about the Great Irish Famine, which shows some of the faces of the approximately 1.5 million Irish men, women and children died of starvation or related diseases.

"The expressions of those faces was very, very similar and familiar to me. They were faces I've seen in too many places today around the world...whether it's in a refugee camp in Dadaab...a mother in a refugee camp in Jordan who fled the Syrian conflict...or it's in The Philippines...talking to a mother or father who lost everything because of  [Typhoon Haiyan] because of the food that we are bringing.

While we are all thankful that the famines that created the history and have become a part of the history of this country are rare today, the reality is the challenge of lack of food, lack of access to nutritious food still exists.  And, unfortunately, in 2014 babies still die because of lack of access to food. 

So, people as, Is there a hunger crisis? Of course, there is a hunger crisis/  If 842 million people are food insecre  and 165 million children are chronically malnourished, that is a crisis. It is particularly a crisis because we know the answers on how to overcome food insecurity. "   

London newspaper The Telegraph has a great article about the WFP executive director.
Ertharin Cousin often wakes up at night, haunted by things she’s seen. It’s part of her job, as the executive director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), to travel to some of the poorest countries in the world, and one particular experience has stuck with her: seeing two children in Somalia, the age of her own grandchildren, who were so malnourished they couldn’t move.  Read full article

Crisis in Central African Republic

(Note: The World Food Programme is providing assistance to refugees affected by an extreme crisis in the Central African Republic. The situation, which we wrote about in this blog a few weeks ago, has worsened. Here an update from The Telegraph

Click here to see how you can help the WFP respond to the crisis).

Sunday, April 06, 2014

An Eye-Opening Documentary About the Food Industry and Our Consumer Choices

The Media Literacy Project invites you to a free screening of the documentary Feeding Frenzy: The Food Industry, Marketing & the Creation of a Health Crisis today, Sunday, April 6, at the Guild Cinema. 3405 Central Avenue NE, in Albuquerque, at 4:30 p.m.. Ticket costs covered by Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Feeding Frenzy: The Food Industry, Marketing & the Creation of a Health Crisis [Trailer] from Media Education Foundation on Vimeo.

The screening will be followed by a food justice panel at B2B Bistronomy (across the street at 3118 Central Ave SE). The panel will feature Sut Jhally, executive director of the Media Education Foundation, and representatives from the Media Literacy Project, Los Jardines Institute, American Friends Service Committee, Tewa Women United, and Native Health Initiative.

The public is encouraged to purchase food at B2B Bistronomy, as 20 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Media Literacy Project.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Bread for the World Turns 40 This Year, and You're Invited to a Party in Washington in June

Bread for the World turns 40 this year, and there is a birthday party plaanned during Bread for the World's National Gathering on June 9-10, 2014.

"We have a special $40 anniversary rate to say "thank you" and to encourage you to come," said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. "Our Gathering will take place at Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center and will include exciting speakers, new learnings, and inspiring worship. The official celebration of our 40th anniversary will be a dinner on Monday, June 9. The Gathering will conclude with Lobby Day visits to our members of Congress on Tuesday, June 10."

When: June 9 to 10, 2014
Where: Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, 3800 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007
Hotel reservations may be made by calling 888-902-1606 or booking online. A special rate of $169 per night is available for reservations made by May 6.
Theme: Bread Rising: Working Together to End Hunger and Poverty by 2030

Tentative Schedule

Monday, June 9
Working Together to End Hunger and Poverty by 2030
8:30 a.m.  Registration and Continental Breakfast
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Worshiping, Listening, and Learning Together
40th Anniversary Dinner
6 p.m. – 9 p.m.  Reception and Dinner

Tuesday, June 10
Lobby Day
8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Briefing session followed by pre-arranged visits to members of Congress on Capitol Hill. The day concludes with a reception and worship.

Early-bird registration, before May 6, is only $40 per person (lodging not included).

Friday, April 04, 2014

Seed2Need Community Garden in Corrales Seeks Grant, Needs Your Vote

Seeds of Change is awarding $190,000 in grants—and Seed2Need in Corrales is among the community gardens, schools and farms around the nation that has submitted an application. Seed2Need, in fact, is the only entity in the Albuquerque area that is competing for grant money. A total of 17 grants will be awarded. Two participants will be selected to receive $20,000 and 15 others will be awarded $10,000. The selection process depends a lot on the support of the community--which means YOU. Please take time to participate.  Vote here  (The voting period ends on April 21, 2014, and you may vote once per calendar day).

About Seed2Need
Seed2Need is exactly the type of organization that the newly formed Interfaith Hunger Coalition is seeking as a partner. This non-profit organization dedicated to reducing food insecurity in New Mexico by growing gardens to generate produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens. The Seed2Need garden in Corrales is grown on land donated by property owners in that community, who also cover the cost of water and electricity.

Organizers are very proud of the efforts ot the community to help this project thrive.   Every season hundreds of people participate, donating their time, sweat and effort into planting, endless weeding and harvesting tons of vegetables, Seventeen local food pantries pick up directly from the gardens, with trucks or by sending volunteers who help harvest and then load their vehicles. Our produce is usually distributed to those who need it within 72 hours or less. We want it to be Farmer's Market quality."

Goal: Surpass 250,000 Pounds in Donated Produce in 2014
The Seed2Need entry in the Seeds of Change site provides some truthful eye-popping statistics about our state (based on the Map the Meal Gap report last summer) as well as hopeful ways in which the community garden can help ease food insecurity in the Albuquerque area. 

New Mexico ranks #1 in the nation for childhood hunger and #2 for adult hunger. The central food bank cannot invest limited resources in perishable commodities. Grocery chains provide much of the produce received by pantries, but it often spoils before it can be distributed. Yet, vegetables and produce are a critical component of a nutritious diet.  We provide a farmer's market for local food pantries, with 15 local pantries picking up directly from the gardens. The produce is usually fully distributed within less than 72 hours of being picked. We have donated over 182,000 pounds of produce over the last four years. We hope to surpass 250,000 pounds donated by the end of 2014, our fifth year. 

In addition to donating produce, we provide a volunteer opportunity that is educational, as well as impactful. The amount of produce that can be generated off of 2.5 acres is consistently an eye-opener, and gratifying, to all involved.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Stunning Truth About Global Inequality

Below is an eye-opening video from The Rules, a global movement that advocates for changes that  empower  ordinary people around the world and seek changes in the rules that create poverty and inequality. The organization addresses such issues as unequal taxation, land, food, climate, health, women and girls, and trade.

Changing the rules seems like a daunting and seemingly impossible task in a world where those who benefit from the global economic structure control the political process. Nevertheless, The Rules carries on in this manner:  We operate as a decentralized network with several campaign hubs around the world, including in Johannesburg, Nairobi, Mumbai, New York, Toronto, and Rio. The focus of these hubs is to identify issues, opportunities, technologies and regional strategies for each campaign.   Learn More

Here is the main message about global income inequality.
The richest 300 people on earth have as much wealth as the poorest 3 billion. This is no accident; those in power write the rules. Together, we have the power to change those rules."

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It's Nuts! Why is Good Peanut Butter Going to a New Mexico Landfill?

It's worse than an April Food's joke. It's the foolish reality.

Good food is being thrown away in New Mexico because of a business dispute.  And this is happening at a time when hunger is a huge problem in our state. It all started when the Sunland peanut plant in Portales, N.M., filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. Health violations were a reason behind the economic problems at the facility. There was an impasse when it came to auctioning off assets this year.

Rather than explain the problem in my own words, I'll share comments from the Albuquerque Journal in an editorial published today, entitled "Peanut butter dump hard to swallow in NM."
In a state that ranks No. 1 in child hunger, where 66 percent of public school students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, where one in five people adjusts their eating patterns because their household lacks money and other resources for food, and 40,000 residents seek help from a free food pantry or food bank every week, it defies logic and compassion to throw 950,000 jars of nut butter – about 25 tons – into the dump.

Yet an impasse between the bankrupt Sunland peanut plant and Costco Wholesale, which supplied the nuts, means all that $2.6 million in peanut butter is landfill filler.
According to various reports, the peanut butter was tested and was found to be fully safe for human consumption   And yet, the editorial points out...
No donating it to food banks or repackaging it for sale to brokers who supply institutions like prisons. Instead, $60,000 will be spent to have the almost million jars hauled to the Curry County landfill in Clovis and covered with dirt. 

And considering New Mexico’s too-close relationship with hunger, that’s a decision that’s impossible to justify. 
When looking at the enormity of hunger in New Mexico, this is a relatively small matter. The Albuquerque Journal should be advocating for structural and economic changes that will address hunger in New Mexico.  That's for another time. For this particular situation, it is right to be indignant about this negligent waste of food.  After all, folks at food banks in the state (and around the country, for that matter) will tell you that peanut butter is one of the items most requested by food pantries and other providers that serve hungry clients,

Read the full editorial  (although this blog post contains the key points of the text). 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Every Day Should be World Water Day

I'm nore than a week late in observing World Water Day 2014. The day when the global community commemorates the universal right to water occurred on March 22, 2014.  This year, organizers at the United Nations selected the theme of  Water and Energy.

In 2014, the UN System – working closely with its Member States and other relevant stakeholders – is collectively bringing its attention to the water-energy nexus, particularly addressing inequities, especially for the 'bottom billion' who live in slums and impoverished rural areas and survive without access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services. It also aims to facilitate the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bridge ministries and sectors, leading the way to energy security and sustainable water use in a green economy. Particular attention will be paid to identifying best practices that can make a water- and energy-efficient 'Green Industry' a reality.

This effort, of course, continues throughout the year and during the years to come. After all, the attention to global water needs should not be limited to a single day in March. So, in that spirit, I would like to declare every day as World Water Day.

While the efforts to promote and emphasize the links between water and energy are an important part of  the global effort to address poverty, the simple access to clean water for daily use is just as important.  So, as we celebrate the UN's official theme, we also underscore the many ways in which communities around the world address this need.  This video from Church World Service (produced by RippleEffectImages.org), highlights a project in Kenya.  This is the first of a series of CWS videos on water. You can watch them all in the playlist.

Life is transformed--particularly for women and girls--when a community builds a sand dam and gains ready access to safe water, with support from Church World Service.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Enlightened Eating: A Blessing that Extends Through Your Entire Meal

Have you ever been so hungry that the instant you get your food, the first instinct is to go into devour mode?  Many of us do not necessarily "inhale" our food, but we do focus on addressing those hunger pangs.

Jay Michaelson, author of  the book God in Your Body, urges us to treat our food with reverence. In an article entitled Eat Your Way to Enlightment, Michaelson offers us a set of a meditation guidelines to go along with this practice borrowed from the Buddhist tradition and adapted into Kabbala tradition of Judaism.

Michaelson points out that the practice is now widely taught among the people who gave the world the bagel & shmear. "But more than almost any other practice I teach, it works for people of any or no religious background, and with a lot or no meditation experience. Admittedly, it's not quite instant enlightenment -- but it is a taste of the World to Come," said Michaelson.

When we say grace or say a blessing before a meal, we tend to go on to conversations with our dining companions. And that is natural. Michaelson's practice gives us a chance to offer our blessings throughout the entire meal when we eat by ourselves or to offer an extended blessing when we share food with others.

"Very simple practice -- not much Kabbalah, not many moving parts; just waking up to the body, to fulfill the injunction of v'achalta, v'savata, u'verachta (you will eat, you'll be satisfied, and you'll bless) with the same intensity our ancestors might have had. I like to think of it as the prerequisite for authentic blessing," said Michaelson.  (This is another way to practice  what Rabbi Min Kantrowitz told participants at the Jewish-Catholic Dialogue's Spring Colloquium in Albuquerque in March).

Eight Steps to Mindful Eating
So where do you start? Michaelson tells us how.
"Begin by selecting a piece of food. A bit of fruit or vegetable is good, though I often teach this practice with a potato chip -- really, almost anything works. Take a moment to focus on the object before putting it in your mouth."

And then we are prompted to use the Kabbalistic map of the four worlds to assist us with the practice. The descriptions that follow are abbreviated.  Read the entire article to get the full eight steps.

    •  First, on the level of the body, you might feel the food with your fingers, or just gaze at it with focused attention. What does it feel like, or look like?
    • "Check in" next with the heart. What desires do you have? Are you hungry? Nauseated? Thankful?
    • On the plane of the mind, consider for a moment all of the people involved in bringing this food to you. Farmers, truck drivers, factory workers, storekeepers -- there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people whose labor created the simple occasion of this food arriving in this moment.
    • And, on the level of the soul, consider all the conditions necessary to have created this food. The four elements of fire (sun), water, Earth, and air; the genetic information in the plants (or animals), which I see as part of the Divine wisdom (chochmah).
    • Then -- finally! -- place the food in your mouth. Before chewing and swallowing, experience the tactile sensations of the food on your tongue, the tastes, the feeling of the mouth watering.
    • Then, bite into the food and chew, trying to omit any automatic movements. When chewing, know you are chewing.
    • Swallow after the food has been thoroughly chewed, probably twenty or thirty times (don't bother counting; it's not a quiz).
    • As your tongue cleans your mouth after this mindful bite of food, try to maintain the attentiveness that you've cultivated; don't let it be automatic.

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    An Argument for Including Freedom of the Press in Follow-up Plan to Millennium Development Goals

    Cover picture for CPJ report
    I attended a very interesting conference on freedom of the press in the Americas at Florida International University this past week. One free resource available to participants was a book published by the Committee to Protect Journalists entitled Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World's Front Lines.

    Several chapters in the book caught my attention, but one in particular had relevance to my anti-hunger and anti-poverty efforts. The chapter, written by CPJ deputy director Rob Mahoney, suggested that work of journalists was to look at the important issues affecting a country, and if this work was hampered, this would affect the most vulnerable members of society.
    Mahoney used the example of Umar Cheema, a Pakistani journalist, who won the CPJ's International Press Freedom Award in 2011. Despite continued harrassment and intimidation from the Pakistani military (including a brutal assault in 2010), Cheema has continued the work of exposing corruption in Pakistan--which directly affects the well-being of the poor. 

    In the chapter entitled  "Putting Press Freedoms at the Heart of Anti-Poverty Efforts," Mahoney points out that other journalists are doing similar work in their own countries (and are facing similar harrassment).  Here is an excerpt
    There are Umar Cheemas in most countries, ferreting out land titles, company accounts, and public records, in an effort to hold governments and businesses accountable and serve the public interest. But many are under-funded and exposed. They are harassed, threatened, or lose their jobs. An increasing number are imprisoned, and many are simply murdered.

    Their work and the broader role of journalists and media organizations as a voice for the poor and powerless, a provider of information and ideas, a forum for politics and culture, and an engine of change is acknowledged by economists and political scientists as vital to economic development and democracy.

    But multilateral institutions from the United Nations to the World Bank, along with individual Western donor nations and agencies, have a mixed record in providing the sustained support, protection, and investment that journalists in repressive or impoverished countries or regions require. At the dawn of this millennium, world leaders vowed to improve the health and welfare of much of humanity by 2015 and agreed on eight goals for doing so. Press freedom was not among them. Neither were democratic governance and accountability, which press freedom underpins
    That a free press and democratic governance go hand in hand is now well established in the development community. But it was not always so, as made evident by the glaring omissions in the first set of UN goals in 2000.
    Here is the full text of  Putting Press Freedoms at the Heart of Anti-Poverty Efforts

    Should peacemaking be part of the global anti-poverty plan too? 
    While, Mahoney raises some interesting points, the global anti-poverty plan might have ommitted other important areas of work. For example, peace activist and author John Dear once suggested strongly that disarmament and peacemaking should have been included when the eight Millennium Development Goals were negotiated.

    "If we want to discover the blessings of peace, we have to renounce war and dedicate ourselves to a new world without war. Every human being has to join this global campaign for peace if we are to lead ourselves away from the precipice of global catastrophe. We need to rediscover our shared humanity and reclaim the higher principles of love, justice, compassion and equality. We need to demand food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare, and dignity for every child on the planet. We need to give our lives for a future of peace," Rev. Dear wrote in The Vision of Peace in November 2004.

    I agree that freedom of expression and peacemaking are essential partners to the fight against global poverty. But so far, they have been unspoken goals and not specific targets. So as the global community moves to follow up on the MDGs, perhaps the next global anti-poverty plan should include language where these two important human rights are spelled out in a more direct manner.