Saturday, July 23, 2016

Shane Claiborne: Relational Justice at the Center of Ending Hunger

Not only do I believe that we can end hunger and homelessness and poverty.  I know that we can...Mother Teresa is right, it may become fashionable to talk about the hungry, but not as fashionable to talk to them.  And if we really care about the poor, that we know their names, they're part of our family, we're in each other's lives. Sometimes the real challenge is relational justice, that we get involved in the lives of those who hurt. That causes us not just to share food with the hungry but to ask why are there people who are hungry, why so many people have more than they need. 
Bread for the World asked several prominent voices in the Christian community to share their vision of what it means to end hunger. This reflection comes from Shane Claiborne,a leading figure in the New Monasticism movement and one of the founding members of the Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia that has helped birth and connect radical faith communities around the world. Claiborne participated in conferences in Albuquerque sponsored by the Center for Action and Contemplation on several occasions, including in 2009 and 2015.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bishop Richard Pates: Sharing the Bounty of God's Goodness

We deeply believe that we are all one human family - that we share the bounty of God’s goodness or we should share -- and therefore, because the availability of food is there, it’s a question of having the determination to really feed our brothers and sisters, to overcome the suffering that we feel is really not justified because of the fact of the bounty of food and also we want to render to them the dignity they are entitled to as children of God.  -Bishop Richard Pates, Diocese of Des Moines (Iowa)
Bishop Richard Pates, who leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa, was one of many people who helped plan an Interfaith Prayer to End Hunger on World Food Day in 2013. Bishop Pates, a fellow member of Bread for the World, has also rubbed elbows with some of the laureates of the World Food Prize, which is awarded in Des Moines every year. Bishop Pates'has been outspoken in his state and nationally about hunger and was instrumental in the launch of the Vote to End Hunger coalition in Iowa in November 2015. This Bread for the World video featuring Bishop Pates is part of a series of faithful voices calling us to work to address food insecurity and its root causes and to pledge to end by hunger by 2030.  Read a transcript of his comments.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

An Extraordinary Interfaith Document on Ending Hunger

Recognizing that it is within our collective means to end hunger, the world’s leaders made a firm commitment to do so by agreeing to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Yet no single individual, agency or nation can achieve this ambitious agenda alone. Doing so requires fully harnessing strategic partnerships, including with religious communities, faith-inspired organizations, governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders.

 The moral imperative of feeding the hungry and caring for the poor lies at the heart of the world’s major religions. We share a common focus on and concern about the 800 million hungry people in the world.  -Ertharin Cousin, executive director, World Food Programme.

On June 13, Pope Francis addressed the executive committee of the World Food Programe (WFP) to offer his full support to the target of Zero Hunger and to give his perspective on the changes needed to end global hunger. The WFP organized two interfaith actions in conjunction with the Pope's address. One was a panel discussion of interfaith leaders, which included David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to end Hunger.

“The feasibility of Zero Hunger has moral and spiritual implications,” said Beckmann. “It is no longer ethically sufficient to help people in need. We aren’t acting ethically unless we are helping to end hunger, which means advocating for the systemic changes that are required. God’s grace leads directly to advocacy to end hunger.”

In advance of Pope Francis' address, WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin invited religious leaders and scholars to Rome to offer their thoughts on the goal of Zero Hunger by the year 2030, which is the ultimate target of the Sustainable Development Goals that were announced in September 2015. A total of 24 religious leaders contributed statements to the document. The diversity of the group was impressive and included representatives of the Jewish, Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto and other traditions. Many made the statements on behalf of organizations, and not necessarily on behalf of a denominational body.

There was also broad diversity in the statements that came from Christian traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Vatican, the World Evangelical Alliance, the African Instituted Churches, the Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the World Council of Churches. Representatives of ecumenical, interfaith and secular humanitarian agencies also contributed statements, including Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger, Religions for International Peace, United Religions Initiative, Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement and others also contributed to the richness of the document.

Below  is a small sampling of excerpts from the contributions to the document. (Read the full document)
Hunger is directly linked to power relations. Power imbalances result in gender inequality, unfair trade policies that persistently impoverish poor communities, and structural barriers such as corruption and tax avoidance. We call for the transformation of power relations to ensure that “the least of these” have a seat at the policy-making table. Relations between rich and poor countries should foster, rather than strip poor and hungry communities of their right to dignity. -Rev. Nicta M. Lubaale is the General Secretary, Organization of African Instituted Churches
Just as we care for the members of our immediate family, tending their needs and ensuring their health and safety, so we must tend to the needs of the Earth family, particularly our sisters and brothers who sleep hungry each night, and our children who perish of starvation and malnutrition. -Swami Chidanand Saraswati is President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, India, and Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
God has created us in such a way that in our first three or four years our survival depends on the care and love of others. And it is therefore the task of the human being to ensure that the basic needs of the child wherever and wherever born, are being fulfilled. Paramount amongst these needs is food security. We can only realize this universal commandment when we are truly conscious of the fact that humanity constitutes one body. When one part of the body aches the other parts of the body feel it. When pain is not felt throughout the body and remains isolated ,this condition constitutes the beginning of death. -Rabbi Arwaham Soetendorp, President and Founder Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Our hearts, along with those of millions of others of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, are filled with compassion for the many of God’s children who suffer from lack of daily sustenance and who therefore cope with the devastating effects of hunger and malnutrition. In our efforts to follow the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ, we feel a keen responsibility to extend help as well as hope to the hungry and to the homeless, both at home and abroad. We invite people everywhere to open their hearts and minds to this growing need and make resources available to the effort of eliminating hunger where they live.  -First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Hunger is a constant companion in Africa’s Sahel region. Hunger of the body walks alongside hunger of the spirit. Sheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride confrérie and its spiritual inspiration, left us with this prayer that evokes the essence of Islamic teachings: “Preserve us from degradation, from penuries, from defeats, from misery, from hunger, and thirst. Oh Allah!” But he also demanded action, bringing the land under cultivation and teaching his followers the skills of farming. Making the dream of Zero Hunger a reality in our lifetime echoes the Mouride passion for community, a passion that links the spiritual quest with daily action and concern for the welfare of all. -Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Mouride leader and President, Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement
The World Evangelical Alliance recognizes that addressing 'zero hunger' is not merely achieved through visualizing the abundance of food. Values of co-operation and opportunity highlight food systems of inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient societies. Compassion is the motivation which acts on our God given responses to hunger with a commitment which looks beyond line ups of food handouts.  Commissioner Christine MacMillan is Director of Public Engagement, The World Evangelical Alliance

Sunday, July 17, 2016

When Many Millions of Things Come Together

Tiffany Window, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gratitude is the understanding that many millions of things come together and live together and mesh together and breathe together in order for us to take even one more breath of air, that the underlying gift of life and incarnation as a living, participating human being is a privilege; that we are miraculously part of something, rather than nothing.
 

Even if that something is temporarily pain or despair, we inhabit a living world, with real faces, real voices, laughter, the color blue, the green of the fields, the freshness of a cold wind, or the tawny hue of a winter landscape. -David Whyte

See full reflection in Gratefulness.org (an excerpt from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Couple of Moves in the Direction of Transparency, Integrity and Accountability

Photo: Carlos Navarro
Transparency is a prerequisite for integrity.  And integrity is a necessary tool to ensure accountability. And accountability is a very important aspect in the effort to address hunger and poverty at the global level. These qualities are not necessarily present in legislation that moves through the U.S. Congress or decisions made by other important agencies.

Therefore, we celebrate those occasions when decisions are made to  to ensure full disclosure in our international interactions.  This was the case for a couple of decisions that took place this month.

The Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a final rule that will implement Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Here is why this move is important:

The law requires publicly listed oil, gas and mining companies in the US to publicly disclose the payments they make to governments around the world for the extraction of natural resources. That increased transparency will provide critical information to citizens in some of the world’s poorest countries, enabling them to hold their governments accountable for spending that money on things that will improve their lives, like schools and hospitals. The ONE Campaign has more information

The House of Representatives voted final approval of the Foreign Assistance Accountability and Transparency Act. 

According to Bread for the World, this is why this move is significant.
  
The initiative would mandate an evaluation system for all the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian assistance programs and for some security assistance programs, too. This law will also maintain a recently established website, which gives the public information about U.S. assistance projects. This makes it easier for people in the United States and recipient countries to get involved and help make sure that these projects work effectively. 

Both these moves are a step in the right direction to ensure that our foreign assistance and anti-poverty efforts better serve the needs of the target communities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Norbertine Community to Host Reflection on Spiritual Response to Climate Change

Holy Earth: Engaging the Spirituality of Climate Change

Saturday, July 23
 9-11:30 AM 

Santa María de la Vid Abbey (5825 Coors Blvd SW, Our Lady of Guadalupe Commons Building)

How is the global climate crisis affecting you and your community spiritually? To what sort of spiritual transformation is God calling us during this uncertain season of change, amidst worsening droughts, fires and floods? In what ways can we seek together to respond, as Pope Francis says, to “the cry of the Earth”?

Join us at the Norbertine Community for this initial interfaith open forum for conversation, mediation, prayer and song as we explore the evolving spirituality of living in a world increasingly impacted by the effects global warming. Climate change affects all of us, so your voice and participation are important!

Facilitated by Sara J. Wolcott, Union Theological Seminary 

Wolcott has been engaged in different areas of the climate change issue for nearly a decade, and has worked in India, Indonesia and England. She is currently completing her Masters in Divinity at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she is involved with the Center for Earth Ethics.  Her work with the World Bank in India led her to realize the critical role that religion, arts and music play in adapting to climate change. At present, she is looking at climate-justice issues in different parts of the United States.

Sara is also an artist, singer-songwriter, author and board member of the Quaker Institute for the Future, an organization dedicated to addressing ecological and economic dimensions of climate change. She has written several articles for Sojourners magazine on issues related to climate change and our faith response.

(Photo of Ms. Wolcott via 14th International Environment Forum)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Child Nutrition Reathorization Bill Could Reach Senate Floor This Week

Here are a few updates from the Food Research and Action Center regarding action on domestic nutrition programs  this week. 

On July 6th, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced S. 3136, the Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) bill that the Committee had approved in January. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders reportedly still hope to use an expedited process with limited debate to bring a CNR bill to the Senate floor before Congress leaves for the July 15th summer recess. For background and updates on CNR developments, check FRAC’s Legislative Action Center.

A Look Ahead: FRAC is readying resources for advocacy during the congressional recess that begins on July 16th. See FRAC’s Child Nutrition Site Visit Guide (pdf).

CNR Sign On: Take action now to join FRAC and more than 2,500 organizations (pdf) signing onto the statement opposing the three-state school meals block grant provision included in the House CNR bill to prevent the bill (H.R. 5003) from moving to the House floor. The extended deadline is July 15th.

SNAP Needs A Raise: Urge House Members to cosponsor H.R. 5215, which would raise SNAP benefits and protect jobless adults willing to work from arbitrary time limits on SNAP eligibility. Follow these links to information on H.R. 5215 and opposition to block granting and cutting SNAP.

Mother Teresa: Seeking Peace

Image: Via Facebook Page of Ignatian Solidarity Network

Saturday, July 09, 2016

CWS Video: You Help Feed the World

Church World Service helps people eat in Latin America sustainably, by helping communities leverage their own resources. Video published on June 30, 2016

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Rick Steves and a Twitter Chorus of Hallelujahs

Over the summer, the House and Senate approved different but very similar versions of the Global Food Security Act.  Both H.R. 1567 and S. 1252 contain provisions to empower communities to feed themselves. It creates long-lasting solutions to chronic hunger by focusing more on support and skills training to local communities, including women farmers, and improving agricultural productivity. The problem: President Obama could only sign one bill. The solution was for the House to vote on the S.1252.  That vote happened on Wednesday, July 6.  As was the case with H.R. 1567, the Senate version of the Global Food Security Act was approved overwhelmingly in the House by a vote of 369 to 53. All three New Mexico congresspersons, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Rep. Steve Pearce, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan cast a Yea vote.  Here is the full Roll Call.

Bread for the World member Rick Steves, a travel writer and television host, celebrated by writing this piece for the Bread blog.  His article is followed by reactions on Twitter by the anti-hunger community. 

Reprinted from Bread Blog

By Rick Steves 

Together, we just made the world a better place!

Both chambers of Congress have now agreed on the Global Food Security Act with strong, bipartisan support!

The bill authorizes U.S.-led, long-term solutions for small farmers so that they'll be able to feed their families and communities for years to come.

When I urged my members of Congress to support the Global Food Security Act, I knew that I wasn't alone. All across this nation, Bread for the World members were speaking with one voice — a clear and caring voice of compassion. That is why I wanted to share this victory with you.

Thank you for your persistent advocacy and for your part in helping to pass legislation that means we share a world where there is less hunger and more prosperity. I'm calling my members of Congress to thank them for passing the Global Food Security Act. I invite you to do the same.

I've traveled enough to know that half of humanity is trying to live on $2 a day. American compassion like this — manifested in smart policy changes — goes a long way toward building a more peaceful and sustainable world. Can we afford to do this kind of good? Right now, we can't afford not to.

Thank you for being a part of something so consequential and so good!

Rick Steves is a travel writer, host of Rick Steves' Europe, and Bread for the World member.








Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Interdependence

Snowflakes, leaves, humans, plants, raindrops, stars, molecules, microscopic entities all come in communities. The singular cannot in reality exist.

-Paula Gunn Allen

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Syndicated Columnist Brings Attention to Summer Hunger in New Mexico and Elsewhere

“Food banks in Arizona and New Mexico just don’t do summer feeding because there aren’t enough volunteers, there isn’t enough food, and not enough money to get food out to the remote rural areas scattered throughout counties. And I repeatedly hear that in states with drought conditions, fewer crops are being planted, which means less donated fresh fruits and vegetables and more farmworkers who aren’t working enough to sustain themselves. Then the farmworkers end up turning to food banks in greater numbers just to get by.” Ross Fraser, director of media relations for Feeding America
Nationally syndicated columnist Esther J. Cepeda alluded to New Mexico in her column entitled "Hunger Never Takes a Holiday. " The comments about New Mexico and Arizona were part of a quote from Ross Fraser, director of media relations for Feeding America.

In a piece posted on June 24, Roadrunner Food Bank also addressed the issue of summer hunger. "In New Mexico alone, on a year-round basis, more than 136,000 children and 358,000 people overall don’t know where their next meal will come from, according to Map the Meal Gap 2016. Imagine the loss these children and families feel when the support nets of free and reduced-price school meals end for a 2-3 month period," said Matthew Young in an article entitled Why Solving Summer Hunger Matters.

RRFB made a similar argument two years ago. " For struggling families, the summer is a time of dread.  Their children no longer have access to the subsidized school meal programs. This means that struggling parents must come up with a way to provide those additional meals while school is out," said Donna Marlow in a piece entitled Summer Time Stress and Worry.

Fortunately, there are 900 sites in New Mexico that offer access to children during the summer months via a USDA supported program. This goes a long way to alleviate hunger in our state during May, June, July and August.  However, this is probably not enough.

In her column, Cepeda alludes to the many creative ways that food banks and other providers around the country use to get food to people (including the ice cream truck in Las Vegas, Nevada). 

Cepeda notes that citizens around the country have stepped forward to provide food donations to the food banks during the summer months. But distributing the donations becomes a challenge. There are fewer volunteers during the summer months, and the logistics of setting up sites to distribute food to an increasingly large population of working poor has created additional difficulties.

Quoting Charlotte Tidwell, executive Antioch Consolidated Association for Youth and Family Inc. in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Cepeda suggests that increasing monetary donations during the summer months would help food banks around the country partially address this issue.

"Every dollar counts. If you have a few to spare, consider feeding hungry fellow Americans your act of patriotism this weekend," Cepeda said in her column published a few days before the Independence Day holiday in large newspapers like The Albuquerque Journal, The Denver Post, The Washington Post, The Salt Lake Tribune, and The Commercial Appeal (Memphis), and smaller newspapers like The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, California), The Taunton Daily Daily Gazette (Taunton, Massachusetts), and The Janesville Gazette (hometown newspaper in Wisconsin for House Speaker Paul Ryan).

Monday, July 04, 2016

Rick Steves: Exercise the Gift of Your American Citizenship by Advocating to End Hunger

We celebrate Independence Day and the gift of our American citizenship with this short video from travel writer Rick Steves (a Bread for the World member), who explains the importance of advocacy to end hunger.



Sunday, July 03, 2016

Art Street Announces Opening of 'Sun Up, Moon Down' Exhibit

ArtStreet invites the public to visit its new exhibit "Sun Up Moon Down" at the Sundowner Community Room, 6101 Central Ave. NE (map). The exhibit opens on Friday, July 8, through Monday, and runs through  Monday, August 1, but is only open to the public on Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.  Please call the Sundowner, 266-7000, to view the exhibit.

The public is invited to an opening reception on Friday, July 8, 5:30-7:30.

The exhibit features a number of high-quality works of art capturing the diversity of community artists through a variety of media. ArtStreet provides local artists --homeless and housed-- with a common forum to share their experiences, create art, and increase awareness of issues of homelessness. 

ArtStreet hosts a booth at the Downtown Growers Market at Robinson Park on the first and third Saturdays of the month, June through October.

Art Street is a project of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless. Previous exhibits include Recycled Heart and Working Space


Saturday, July 02, 2016

Our Common Fast

Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" Q 2:183

Is not this the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?   Isaiah 58: 6-7

This material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.” – -Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 69-70.
Laity who receive and observe the vows known as the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts stop eating at noon on six days of each month. The purpose of their limiting food intake is manifold: out of compassion for those suffering from starvation, they "give by reducing their share." Further, they respect the Buddha's practice of moderation and eat less on those days. The fasting observance is related to several liturgical practices observed on the six fasting days: they recite their precept codes, recite scriptures and increase their hours of meditation on those days. Fasting: A Buddhist Prespective
On June 28, the Turkish community in Albuquerque invited participants in the Interfaith Hunger Coalition to share in an Iftar (end fast) meal. Necip Orhan, a community leader, explained to us the importance of fasting from food and water during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Ramadan is a time to awaken compassion and solidarity with others and in particular with the poor. We are urged to be more liberal in giving during Ramadan and are required at the end of fasting to give Sadaqatul-Fitr, an amount to enable all to share in the spirit of warmth, affection and brotherhood.Ramadan is above all an opportunity to reorient oneself to the Creator and the natural path of goodness and God-consciousness." An excerpt from AbdulWahid Hamid's Islam The Natural Way.

For most of us, the concept was not at all difficult to grasp: fasting becomes the focal point of our spiritual practice during Yom Kippur,  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the 19-Day Fast. In Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, the Baha'i tradition, there are two outcomes: to become closer with the Creator and to raise awareness about those who are suffering hunger and thirst (and do something about it).

"It is easy to talk about the world's problem of hunger. We can feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one can actually feel it in one's own body is the impact truly there. Compassion based on empathy is much stronger and more consistent than compassion based on pity,"  Rabbi Allen Maller wrote in How Fasting Connects Islam And Judaism
 
There were more than 50 participants (including host families) in the Iftar meal on Tuesday, June 28
Fasting helps us become aware of our excesses, which has the effect of creating gratitude, reduced consumption and a recognition that a power outside ourselves controls our destiny .Interfaith Conversations has great perspective on fasting in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. Religious Fasting Traditions (a blog post by William Eden) takes a broad overview of fasting across a range of faith communities, including differences among Christians.

Political fasting (a hunger strike) has also been used as a tool of protest against an injustice, often to bring attention to violations of individual or collective rights or to the sufferings of others. The most important important teacher of this concept was Mahatma Gandhi, who often combined concern about people and issues with self-purification. Ambassador Tony Hall, one of the founders of the Circle of Protection, reminds us that people of faith engaged in public fasts must remember that God is at the center of their sacrifice.

"A fast has to be first unto God to humble ourselves and unleash God. Your faith is also unleashed when you struggle against injustice. Fasting, when done with the right heart and the right motive, may provide a key to unlock doors when other keys have failed. When you set aside the needs of your body and seek God with all your heart, you're saying, "God, I mean business, and I'm not going to let go unless you answer!" Fasting gives an edge to your prayers -- a power. And it says I do not intend to take no for an answer."
 

The Langar
Three of the guests who attended the Iftar meal  belong to the Albuquerque Sikh Gurudwara. While there is little emphasis on fasting in the Sikh tradition, the Sikhs have a wonderful practice, the langar community meal..The concept of equality is at the center of the langar (kitchen).

For Sikhs, eating together in this way is expressive of the equality and oneness of all humankind. At the same time, it strengthens the Sikh sense of community. Visitors and guests are readily and warmly included in the great hospitality of the Sikh tradition. There are no rituals observed in the langar and everyone eats together. All the food is vegetarian so that no religious group is offended.

"We are taught two things: that we are dependent on the constant need for a greater power, and how little gratitude we have shown all this while in the midst of enjoying the abundance of food. We eat and drink in abundance, but rarely thank the Provider. Often we waste, carelessly spend and spoil ourselves without any sense of guilt or responsibility, despite being aware that millions out there suffer from unimaginable hunger and poverty.
Raudah Mohd Yunus, Express-Tribune Blogs