Friday, November 28, 2008

First Week of Advent: Prayer Based on Millennium Development Goals

Leader: O God bless our wreath and be with us as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. All: Amen

Leader lights the candle and says:
Brothers and sisters in Christ: As we await the great festival of Christmas, let us prepare our hearts so that we may be shown its true meaning. Let us pray for the world that God so loves; for peace and unity all over the earth; for the poor, the hungry, the cold, the helpless, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn; the aged and the little children; and all who rejoice with us but on another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which none can number, whose hope was in the Word Made Flesh, and with whom, in our Lord Jesus Christ, we forever more are one.
Moment of silence

All: Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the way for your only Son. By his coming, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, that our feet may be strengthened for your service, and our path may be brightened for the work of justice and reconciliation in our broken world.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for the poor, hungry, and neglected all over the world, that their cries for daily bread may inspire works of compassion and mercy among those to whom much has been given
Moment of silence

All: Almighty and most merciful God, you took on human flesh not in the palace of a king but in the throes of poverty and need: Grant that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart; that, following in the steps of your blessed Son, we may give of ourselves in the service of others until poverty and hunger cease in all the world, and all things are reconciled in the reign of Christ.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for schools and centers of learning throughout the world, for those who lack access to basic education, and for the light of knowledge to blossom and shine in the lives of all God’s people.
Moment of silence
All: Eternal God, the author and source of all knowledge and Truth: bless all who seek to learn and those who teach them, and inspire us to break down barriers that withhold education from your children; that, enlightened with the bright beams of Wisdom, all may be equipped to seek the blessings of liberty, justice, and peace.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for an end to the divisions and inequalities that scar God’s creation, particularly the barriers to freedom faced by God’s children throughout the world because of gender; that all who have been formed in God’s image might have equality in pursuit of the blessings of creation.
Moment of silence
All: O God, in whom there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, Unite the wills of all people, that the walls which divide us and limit equality among your children may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; so that all may live together in justice, harmony, and peace.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy
All: Hear our prayer Leader:
Leader: Let us pray for the health of women, children and families around the world, especially for an end to maternal and child mortality, that in building healthy families, all God's people may be empowered to strengthen their communities and repair the breaches which divide nations and peoples.
Moment of silence.

All: Almighty and ever-living God, you were born into human flesh and sanctify all families: Protect the health and safety of all women in childbirth and the children whom they bear, and inspire your people to build strong and healthy families and communities, where all may be strengthened to do your will on earth until the day when you gather us into one heavenly family.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for an end to pandemic disease throughout the world, particularly the scourges of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis; that plagues of death may no longer fuel poverty, destabilize nations, and inhibit reconciliation and restoration throughout the world.
Moment of silence
All: O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of all who suffer: Grant your saving health to all who are afflicted by disease throughout the world. Bless the labors of all who minister to the sick, and unite the wills of nations and peoples in seeking an end to the pandemics of our age; that sickness may be turned to health, sorrow turned to joy, and mourning turned to praise of your Holy Name.

Leader: God of love, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for an end to the waste and desecration of God’s creation, for access to the fruits of creation to be shared equally among all people, and for communities and nations to find sustenance in the fruits of the earth and the water God has given us.
Moment of silence
All: Almighty God, you created the world and gave it into our care so that, in obedience to you, we might serve all people: Inspire us to use the riches of creation with wisdom, and to ensure that their blessings are shared by all; that, trusting in your bounty, all people may be empowered to seek freedom from poverty, famine, and oppression.

Leader: God of love, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer.

Leader: Let us pray for all nations and people who already enjoy the abundance of creation and the blessings of prosperity, that their hearts may be lifted up to the needs of the poor and afflicted, and partnerships between rich and poor for the reconciliation of the world may flourish and grow.
Moment of silence
All: Merciful God, you have bestowed upon us gifts beyond our imagining and have reminded us that all that we have belongs to you alone and is merely held in trust by human hands: we give you thanks for those moments of reconciliation and grace we see in our world, of wrongs that are made right, knowing that in your love all things are possible. Inspire in our nation, its leaders and people a spirit of greater sacrifice and devotion in the use of our treasures for the reconciliation of your world; that, in forsaking wealth and giving up ourselves to walk in the way of the Cross, we may find it to be none other than the way of life and peace.

Leader: God of love, in your mercy,
All: Hear our prayer. Leader: Let us pray for the departed, particularly those who have died as a result of poverty, hunger, disease, violence, or hardness of the human heart;
Moment of silence
All: Almighty God, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ was born into human flesh to live and die as one of us and destroy forever the bondage of sin and death: We commend to your mercy all your departed servants, particularly those who have died as a result of the brokenness of our world; and we pray that we, too, may share with the Blessed Virgin Mary, [______ and] all the saints in the joy of your heavenly reign.
Leader: God of love, in your mercy,
All:Hear our prayer.

Leader: Eternal God, in whose perfect kingdom no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love: So mightily spread abroad your Spirit, that all peoples may be gathered together and reconciled under the banner of the Prince of Peace, as children of one Father; to whom be dominion and glory, now and forever.
All: Amen
Thanks to the Office of Government Relations of The Episcopal Church for preparing this advent prayer

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Human Rights and the Conflict in Congo

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the launch of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to especially draw attention to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The bottom line is that war and conflict in the Congo are creating several emergencies where basic human rights are being violated. The crisis has generally been forgotten by most of the world for many years. Read Op-Ed piece in The Christian Science Monitor.

Oxfam, which works to bring relief to many areas of conflict around the world, offers this description of the situation in the sub-Saharan country:
Since war broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1998, more than 5 million people have died—most of them from lack of access to food and health care. And though the conflict officially ended in 2003, fighting has continued, mainly in the country’s eastern provinces. Read full background from Oxfam.
There is no doubt that the UN Declaration of Human Rights applies in so many ways to this situation. Let me point in particular to Article 25 of the Declaration, which states:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. Click here to see the full declaration (in .pdf format)
While the situation in the Congo appears to be a distant conflict best left to national governments and the community of nations (through the U.N.), we also must consider ways in which we can help.
First, we must encourage the U.S. Congress to introduce legislation that takes direct action. In September, the House of Representatives approved a resolution, HR1227, that has strong language condemning the violence and some very good recommendations, but it falls a little short of direct action.

Another easy way would be to support the efforts of organizations attempting to provide some relief. For example, Oxfam is one of the leading organizations providing water and sanitation. "We are working in the eastern regions of Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu where communities are hosting tens of thousands of displaced people," said Oxfam.

Oxfam offers opportunities for you to get involved, either through a donation or simply through raising awareness and other actions.

Another organization working in Congo is Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"MSF medical teams carry out emergency surgery, treat injuries including gunshot wounds and burns, run mobile clinics to reach those who have fled to safer, more remote areas, provide health care in hospitals and health centers, treat diseases such as cholera, provide medical care to victims of sexual violence, and provide psychological support to those traumatized by what they have experienced," says the organization.
Read full description and/or click here to see a video. Support MSF efforts. More information

Albuquerque Peacemaker Traveling to Congo

But you can also become involved locally by supporting Albuquerque resident Kathleen O'Malley, who will be traveling to the Congo in January as part of a five-member human rights team. The team will document human rights violations and advocate for non-violence during the stay.

Kathleen, who is a local psychologist and peace activist, will discuss her upcoming trip on Saturday, Dec. 6, at the home of Keith and Judy Bierbaum, 1120 Summit Dr. NE, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. She will show a short documentary film and talk about the team's purposes and activities. She will also offer suggestions/opportunities on how you can help with her efforts, either monetarily or other means.

And while we're talking about the anniversary of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, I would like to also encourage you to attend a whole host of events taking place in Albuquerque on Dec. 3-10 to mark this very important document. Click here to see list.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Albuquerque Observes Human Rights Week

December 3-10
(Dignity and justice for all of us)


Are these human rights observed around the world? Here in the U.S.? Do we know what our rights are? Do we know that they apply to everyone? Do we care?
COME! All events are free and open to the public. COME!

Thu., Dec. 4 12:00 noon
Women in Black – Vigil outside of District Court House, 4th and Central
Contact: Kay Huggins, 343-3784

Thu., Dec. 4 6:00 pm
Luther House - Worship service on the theme of human rights, followed by dinner, 1805 Las Lomas NE
Contact: Anne Morawski, campus pastor, 242-0607,

Fri., Dec. 5 5:00 pm
N.M. Islamic Center, 1101 Yale SE
Reception; 5:30 - Speaker on Human Rights in Islam; 6:30 - Youth Speaker;
Invitation to night prayer at 7:30
Contact: Mariya Farooqi,

Sat., Dec. 6
Pax Christi – Statewide event for the abolition of the death penalty, The Roundhouse in Santa Fe, followed by a walk to the prison -
Contact: Tom Ludza,

Amnesty International – 10:00 am – 1:00 pm -Write-a-thon, and Demonstration for Human Rights, starting at 12129 Glen Canyon Rd. NE
Contact: George Huggins, 343-3784

Sun., Dec 7
10:00 am - Soka Gakki International (SGI), 1911 Sunshine Terrace SE – Program on human rights
Contact: Maureen Wright, 881-4536

11:00 am – Unitarian Universalist Fellowship – Human Rights Sunday
Abq. Center for Peace & Justice, 202 S. Harvard SE
Contact: Sally Alice Thompson, 268-5073

Mon., Dec. 8 4:00-6:00 pm
Campaign to End the Death Penalty Abq (CEDPABQ) –
Tabling and vigil at UNM (outside the bookstore)
Contact: Christy Arnell, 203-5870

Tue., Dec. 9 at 1:00 pm
Abq. Healthcare for the Homeless - Meeting (1st and Mountain NE) and March for the homeless to First U. Methodist Church, ( 4th & Lead ); 2:00-3:30 pm - Memorial Service and Vigil inside First U. Methodist Church, with emphasis on human rights especially Article 25.
Contact: Lisa, 217-9570

Featured program:

Wed., Dec. 10 at 6:00 pm
United Nations Association and Veterans for Peace – Smith-Brasher Hall, University and Coal SE
6:00 pm – Light refreshments and exhibit viewing
7:00 pm - Program: MODERATOR: Rey Garduno, member Albuquerque City Council

Songs by The Raging Grannies
Introduction of Moderator
Reading of City Proclamation
Reports by participating organizations
Awarding of Essay Contest Prize by Veterans for Peace
Reports of other organizations
The Raging Grannies

SPEAKER: LaDonna Harris, President of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO)
Questions and Discussion; A Charge to Protect

PARTICIPATING GROUPS: United Nations Association, Veterans for Peace, Women in Black, Luther House, New Mexico Islamic Center, Pax Christi, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, SGI, Amnesty International, Abq. Coalition to Eliminate the Death Penalty, Healthcare for the Homeless, First U. Methodist Church, MEPJA, Bread for the World-New Mexico, Peacecraft, Montanita Co-op, TheONE Campaign-Albuquerque, Peace Brigade International, The Advocacy Project, Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice, The Raging Grannies, Los Alamos Study Group, School of the Americas.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drama Precedes an Offering of Letters

We don't usually get as many congregations in New Mexico to organize letter-writing Sundays in the fall as we do during the spring and early summer.

But two churches in Albuquerque responded to the call from Bread for the World to write letters on Oct. 19. Thanks to the efforts of Else Tasseron, St. Paul Lutheran Church produced 47 letters, while St. Andrew Presbyterian Church got members of the congregation to write 63 letters (kudos to Ester Schneider and Dana Bell).

St. Andrew combined its letter-writing Sunday with an appeal for folks to participate in the CROP Walk (with their legs or with their money) that day.

As part of its strategy to boost interest, organizers put together a very creative script for a dramatic presentation to be presented to the congregation during the service.
Here it is:

(written by Bill Miller and Ester Schneider)
Sunday, October 19, 2008
St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

A: Dana Bell
B. Joe Woodworth
C. Ester Schneider

A: I hear there are a lot of hungry people in the world, even right here in the U.S.
B: Yes, I know. I feel terrible about it, because we have been so fortunate. Most of us here have plenty of food.
C: Too much food! Millions of people are starving, and Americans are dying of obesity.
A: I wish there were something I could do to help. I mean, I give money and all, and bring some groceries on the first Sunday of the month, but it seems like such a drop in the bucket.
B: I know what you mean. I feel so helpless and guilty when I think about millions of people hungry and starving.I just don’t like to think about it.
C: I did hear about this organization called “Bread for the World.” They are trying to make changes in Congress, where it can make a real difference to a lot of people.
A: You mean for Americans. How does it work?
C: No, not just for Americans. Bread for the World supports legislation to relieve hunger around the world. The way it works is that a lot of people who care contact their representatives in Congress, and ask them to do something.
A: But isn’t that kind of vague? Do something!
C: Bread for the World identifies specific bills to support, legislation that can make a real difference to hungry people around the world. Why this morning, right here at Saint Andrew, we have an opportunity to write letters to support Senate Bill 2433.
A: What’s that?
C: This bill would fund U.S. aid programs to help improve agriculture, nutrition, and education, and help small scale farmers improve their yields so they can feed their families and communities. It has already passed the House unanimously, but it’s stuck in the Senate,
B: I never know what to say in a letter like that.
C: That’s why they have suggested wording that you can use, or modify as you wish.
A: And my handwriting’s not very good.
C: But that’s OK - handwritten letters make a real impact. You can just print or write as clearly as you can.
B: Isn’t that when the coffee time is? And if they have cookies or anything else to eat, it’s gone if you don’t get there right away.
C: I guess we could get a cup of coffee and then sit down at the letter-writing table. Plus, I heard there will be some special snacks for the letter writers, so you don’t miss out.
A: But I need to get going. I have a lot to do today. Maybe I’ll just take the information with me and read it at home.
C: You certainly can, but you know human nature. If we don’t do it now, it probably won’t happen.
B: I like to talk to my friends after church, and this is also the only time I have to get some church business done. . . Of course I guess this IS church business.
A: And I don’t have any stamps with me, or envelopes.
C: They will take care of both of those. All you have to do is write the letters.
B:Letters? You mean more than one? Aw, that takes too long! I get hand cramps.
C: Well, even one letter helps. However, for those who are not able to write a letter, the Mission Committee will have letters already typed up. All you have to do is put your Name and address on the letter and the envelope, write a comment of your own, and sign it. They even provide suggested comments.
A: And I’m not really sure if all these letters make a difference anyhow. I mean, is one letter from me really going to matter?
C: Kind of like voting, huh!
B: Yeah! [thinks about it] Well, kind of . . .
A: Don’t they know it’s just Bread for the World getting us to write? Do bills
really get passed because people write these letters?
C: Yes, they do. When they get thousands of letters from all across the country, it does make a difference, and often the bills that Bread for the World supports are passed! But it sounds like you’re just too busy to take time for this today.
A: Well, I suppose I could just write one letter, or maybe two.
B: As long as I can get my coffee first.
I hope to see you both at the round tables in the activity room, writing letters. And for those of us who are also walking in the CROP WALK today, we have plenty of time to write letters.
A.B.C. Come join us. Together we CAN make a difference!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our New Congressional Delegation

A few of us Bread for the World members in New Mexico volunteered to try to engage all the candidates running for Congress in our state through the BEAT 08 campaign. For a myriad of reasons, including schedules, we weren't able to accomplish as much as we wanted. But we did keep the goals of the campaign in mind, which was to try whenever possible to have the candidates speak about hunger and poverty. And we succeeded in some measure. And fortunately, the candidates that we did contact were the ones who ended up getting elected. Thanks to LaVerne Kaufman and Jim Brown for staying on top of this.

Here are a few notes about each candidate.

Senator-elect Tom Udall

replacing Sen. Pete Domenici

I met Tom Udall at one of his meetings here in Las Cruces and as soon as I said, "Bread for the World" he recognized it and was very supportive.
Evidently (he) had been lobbied by members in the past.-LaVerne Kaufman

Indeed, we visited Rep. Udall's office in Washington a couple of times when he was representing the Third Congressional District to ask him to support anti-hunger initiatives. We were able to meet with him directly on one occasion (see above picture). Other times we met with aides. He was generally very supportive of Bread for the World's issues. And we will continue to lobby him in his new post in the Senate for the next six years.

Congressman-elect Martin Heinrich
replacing Rep. Heather Wilson in the First Congressional District

He is pictured here with President-elect Barack Obama

I think it's just a matter of priorities. We need to realize that when we do invest in developing nations and in reducing poverty, that has such an enormous impact on how people feel about us as a nation. -Martin Heinrich

The above comment came from an interview I did with Mr. Heinrich for a piece I was writing for the Bread for the World-New Mexico blog back in March, in which I interviewed all four people seeking the Democratic nomination for the First Congressional District.

I had a chance to follow up with Mr. Heinrich at one of his campaign events in October. He again expressed support for the issue, but I also gave him literature about recent Bread for the World campaigns on the Farm Bill and on global poverty. I mentioned that if he was elected, we would come visit his office in Washington in June with a specific legislative request.

Like hundreds of folks here in Albuquerque, I am a friend of Martin Heinrich on Facebook.

Congressman-elect Harry Teague
replacing Rep. Steve Pearce in the Second Congressional District

Bob and I attended the opening of the Obama headquarters in Las Cruces last Saturday. Candidate Harry Teague was there and we talked with him for a few minutes. He said all the right things about hunger and the need for global assistance for people in poverty.

He spoke to the group and said things such as; " I know what it's like to want to go to college and to not afford it" and "I know what it's like to have parents who need health care and not have it". I was impressed by my conversation with him. -LaVerne Kaufman

Congressman-elect Ben Ray Lujan
replacing Rep. Tom Udall in the Third Congressional District

We weren't able to make any contact with candidate Lujan during the electoral campaign, so he is our priority. And we have begun the process of trying to arrange a meeting.

When I called Rep-elect Lujan's office I was told he expected to start meeting with people in a couple of weeks or so when he returns from DC (from an orientation for new members of Congress in mid-November) -Bro. Jim Brown

Rep.-elect Lujan is also my friend on Facebook, so I hope to reinforce Jim's request for a meeting. Bread member Heidi Ernst Jones of Santa Fe also expressed interest in participating in a meeting with the new congressman.

What we hope to discuss with Rep. Lujan and hopefully all the other newly elected officials in coming weeks is a reform of foreign aid, which is the subject of our Offering of Letters in 2009. The Bread for the World Institute put together a terrific
background paper It's in .pdf format so it might take some time to load, depending on your system.

So our work with our new congressional delegation is just beginning. And I want to take this opportunity to invite all of you in New Mexico to participate. Please drop me a note if you'd like to be part of a meeting with Reps-elect Heinrich, Teague and Lujan and maybe Sen.-elect Udall.

I also encourage you to try to attend our Offering of Letters workshops in February (more details to be announced). We hope to have one in each congressional district.

Finally, please join us for Lobby Day and the Bread for the World national gathering in Washingon on June 13-16. It would be great to have a representative from each of the congressional districts to lobby our new congressional delegation (plus our incumbent Sen. Jeff Bingaman).