Saturday, October 31, 2009

A God of Relationships

 The slogan that used to accompany Bread for the World's old logo portraying the loaves and fishes was "Seek Justice.  End Hunger".  When a new, more modern, logo was created the slogan was changed to "Have Faith. End Hunger."   Since I liked both slogans, I didn't see any reason why we couldn't combine them in our Bread for the World- New Mexico blog.  Hence, our slogan is "Have Faith. Seek Justice.  End Hunger."

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog post.  How exactly does our Christian vocation fit into our anti-hunger and anti-poverty work?  "It's a no-brainer," you say.  If we seek justice (not retribution, but a just way of sharing God's gifts and God's creation), then everything will fall into place.

A Bread for the World member from a community in northwestern New Mexico recently shared with me a disturbing letter to the editor that he saw in the local newspaper.  The writer took issue with the theme of prayer of the faithful in the Catholic Mass.  Often, the prayers ask us to hold in our hearts those who are suffering, and to move us to take actions that will relieve that suffering.  But the letter-writer said,
Praying for voluntary increases in donations to the poor is Christian. Praying for governments to redistribute property in a way it deems to be "fair" is Marxist communism....The U.S., a capitalist nation, is the largest redistributor of wealth in the world and it does so voluntarily. In contrast, most starvation in the world today is politically originated by governments having absolute power over their people; the kind of power required to redistribute private property.
Fortunately, a local Catholic pastor responded with his own letter to the editor, which said:
I didn't get upset by these comments. I simply chuckled and said to myself, "Well, I've been called all sorts of things in my 20 years of priesthood. Now I can finally say I was accused of being a Marxist. Wow!"...Please know...that we as a Church pray that our nation and all nations — and all individuals, for that matter — be mindful of the poor and that we take care of the least among us.

That is nothing radical. That is the Christian vocation.
That Christian vocation is spelled out in one form or another in Jesus' account of the two Greatest Commandments all four Gospels. You can find it in :Matthew 22:36-40   Mark 12:28-31   Luke 10:25-28   John 13:34

We are fortunate to have access to a program of study called JustFaith Ministries, which  looks more closely at this Christian vocation of caring for one another.  The program, in which Bread for the World is a partner, has been successful in many Catholic parishes around the country, and the ecumenical version is beginning to take root in some communities.

Last summer, Dan Driscoll, one of the JustFaith trainers, gave a workshop here in Albuquerque.  As Dan pointed out during the workshop, "it is next to impossible to find a passage in scripture that does not deal with social justice,"

One of the themes that I remember most from Dan's presentation was the concept of social justice begins with the recognition that we need each other  

The Zulu tradition, he said, expresses this in a slogan that says
"umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu" - which means that a person is only a person through their relationship to others..

Archbishop Desmond Tutu summed it up in when he spoke of the related concept of Ubuntu:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity.

We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Opening the Door to Hunger (New Video from Roadrunner Food Bank)

Roadrunner Food Bank's newest video, Opening The Door To Hunger, tells the story of hunger in New Mexico from the point of view of those who are experiencing hunger and those who try to feed the hungry.  Poignant interviews with New Mexicans affected by hunger are featured throughout this film.

See how hunger affects real people in our state and find out what Roadrunner Food Bank is doing about it.
It's God first, then it's people, and then it's yourself, that's where we fall at the bottom of the totem pole.  We got to take care of others first before ourselves.

We have a woman who has been coming  [to Martineztown Mobille Food Pantry Site] since the first one who has a daughter who goes to the little school up there   The daughter gets out a noon, and  so the woman and her daughter are usually in line by 12:30.  And the food starts at 1:30 And this time her husband was with her.  So I said, " It's good to meet your husband."  And she said "Oh he was just laid off today and that's why he's able to attend."  And that broke my heart because he was their only source of income at that time.

They have that thing called the baking powder breakfast which is you lift your finger, stick in baking powder and stick in your mouth...and it makes you feel like you ate something.  So, that's how you combat hunger, but that's not the right way. 

You're stuck between a system that wants to look at what they think you're worth and what you really have. When my husband broke his back, we went from $70,000 a year to $659 a month

We don't put ourselves in a position most of the time where we see need like this. The first month we had 109 families, and at the very end we had the stuff that nobody really wanted.  We had the tripe and all of the ends and pieces  And this girl came flying up and asked Am I too late? And I said, No.  We  have this.  I'm sorry this all we have.  And  she very happily took the tripe and all the ends and pieces and had tears in her eyes. She said thank you very much.  You just don't understand how much this is going to help  That's stuff that most people wouldn't eat, and she's crying over it.

And to me this box is like a blessing.  I feel like a millionaire.  Like I'm in front of a banquet.  It helps.  It helps a lot.

It's the United States? Why do we have hungry people?

Yes, I'm angry because we live in a place where it should be plentiful, but it isn't.
These are just a few examples of the very touching quotes in the video.  I recommend that you view it yourself. Click here to see the video, which is available in low bandwith and high bandwith (higher quality).   You will be able to see via Windows Media Player or a similar media system on your computer.  The high-resolution version might take about 7 minutes to load.

The link will also take you to three other videos that Roadrunner Food Bank made about hunger in New Mexico.  They are entitled Hunger ExistsThe Faces of Hunger in New Mexico, and A Bite of Chocolate

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Can You Leave Footprints on the Water? Sure You Can!

All of us have heard about the carbon footprint.  But how about the water footprint?  This is one concept that we do not hear as frequently.  Just like the carbon footprint, the way we live, the consumption decisions we make, can have an effect on the future sustainability of the earth and the type of habitat that we will leave to our children.  Just like the carbon footprint, there is a water footprint calculator.

WFN, an organization that promotes more efficient use of our scarce water resources, describes it this way:
The water footprint of an individual, community or business is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business.

It is also important to think about the water footprint in terms of the Seventh of the Eight Millennium Development Goals, which deals with Environmental Sustainability. I'm referring specifically to Target 7C, which urges us to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.  

At a broader level, how do we share this valuable resource that is growing increasingly scarce partly due to global climate change?

Conservation should certainly be a the top of all our lists.  But there are other innovative actions that we can take, Amanda Brock, chief executive officer of a company called Water Standard, is promoting desalination as a partial solution.  Not the big expensive desalination plants like those that have been built in some countries in the Middle East.  Ms. Brock, a panelist at the Border Energy Conference in Houston on Oct. 15-16, said her company has come up with an innovative and cost-effective solution.  A mobile desalination unit that can travel anywhere in the world.  Read more about it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We Need Integrated Development

By Tom Aageson

After reading New Hope for Malnourished Mothers and Children in the September 2009 issue of the the Bread newsletter a couple of times I became concerned that we were falling back into our old "silo" approach to development.  

The background paper focused on good nutritional ideas for very young folks and then exclusively on agricultural development.  What is of concern is that much of the past agricultural development initiatives have focused on heavy use of fertilizers as inputs which have both environmental and economic implications.  

In Guatemala, for example, fertilizers were kept in single room houses on the floor and often pesticides were also kept there.  Spray cans were washed out in the local water stream.  Fertilizers and pesticides often have to be imported into countries which has a very negative impact on the use of local currency and excludes many people from the ag economy because of cost.  

Also, agricultural development often gets into commercial production, often for export.  Once again, US and European markets demand perfection in their veggies and I have seen broccoli, etc thrown away on roads because of imperfections and because it is not a veggie the local community eats. Also, the the background paper omits reference to the other elements of integrated, Sustainability: Economic, Environmental and Cultural.

What we need is people-centered, integrated development.  

To me, Sustainability stands on a four-legged stool:

Environment: Initiatives that are renewable, seeds that are not patented, all initiatives leave the planet in a better place  Economic-enhanced livelihoods improve lives

Social: People can grow their own food and have the incomes to buy what they need in food, shelter, medical care and education

Cultural: This never gets considered but we must consider the development of local culture for integrated development, whether it is foods, celebrations, music, artisan work, the built environment (architecture of houses, communities, etc).

I would urge Bread for the World to always have the lens of the four legs of integrated development.

The author is a Bread for the World member in Santa Fe

Friday, October 09, 2009

Set Your VCRS, Tivos and DVRs (Unless You're an Extreme Night Owl)

We just got a note from KRQE-Channel 13 confirming that the station will air the program Religion, Politics and Advocacy on Sunday, October 11.  But there is a catch.  The half-an-hour program will be broadcast at 12:35 A.M.

So be sure to set your recording devices unless you're planning to be up at that time. Or maybe you're going to be up, but plan to keep the program.

I don't know how much impact all our e-mails had on the decision by Channel 13 to run this program (produced by the CBS Religion Unit), which features interviews with Bread for the World folks at the 2009 National Gathering.   

But we're certainly glad they're airing it!

And if for some reason you forget to set your VCR, Tivo or DVR, fear not.  Bread for the World will have copies available in the near future.

Click this ink to view the background information we posted about the program, including a very brief video.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Video: "You Can End Poverty"

Stand Up Against Poverty has a great new video in observance of the various "Stand Up" events around the world on Oct. 16-18. (I am not aware of any in Albuquerque)

Here is the intro to the video.
"You Can End Poverty", launched on YouTube this week, focuses on a powerful truth: We are the first generation with the power to end poverty. Each one of us holds tremendous power to effect real change like never before. Our collective mobilization can send a clear message to world governments that we refuse to be silent in the face of ongoing poverty and inequality. We can achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals and end poverty 2015. Learn how we can do it.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Albuquerque CROP Walk has its own Website

We walk because they walk.  

That has been a common motivation of people around the country who participate in Crop Walks sponsored by Church World Service.  People of faith participate in this annual event in many parts of the country to show solidarity with folks who have to walk for miles to fetch water from a river or a well or obtain other basic necessities of life because they have no transportation other than their two feet.

Churches and people of faith in Albuquerque have sponsored this event here during October for as long as I can remember.  The walk raises money for the CWS efforts related to international relief and development.  A portion of the money stays in local communities to address hunger needs.  In the past, agencies like The Storehouse have received money from the Albuquerque walks.

New This Year

But there are two things that are different about our local walk this year, which will take place on Sunday, October 18, at 1:30 p.m.

First, there is a new host Congregation, St. Stephen's United Methodist Church, in the Northeast Heights.  For years, the event was held at Central United Methodist Church before it was moved to St. Paul Lutheran Church last year. Both of those locations are in the vicinity of the University of New Mexico, so the walk was visible to people who happened to be near UNM on that particular Sunday.  This year, the walk will be up near Juan Tabo and Montgomery. 

Secondly, the event has its own website, thanks to George Huggins, coordinator of this year's walk.  George is a member of New Life Presbyterian Church. The website gives you easy instructions on how to obtain an envelope or participate.  You also have a link to the site that Church World Service created for this walk.  There is also a listing of the members of the organizing committee. And if you're interested, the site gives you some historic information, listing previous walks in Albuquerque.  

There is also a link to other CROP Walks around the country.  By the way, the following communities in New Mexico will also hold or have held a walk this year: Carlsbad (Nov. 7) Farmington (Nov. 7),  Gallup (Oct. 25), Hobbs (Oct. 24), Las Cruces (Nov. 15), Las Vegas (Oct. 17), Los Alamos (Nov. 22), Roosevelt & Curry Counties (Oct. 4), Santa Fe (Oct. 11).

Saturday, October 03, 2009

It Takes a (New Mexico) Village

An impressive group of non-governmental organizations, government agencies (local, state and federal) and members of the private sector have come together to address the problem of hunger in New Mexico.  The group has come together under the name The New Mexico Collaboration to End Hunger.  There is wide participation from members of the community and even outside the community.  They have developed a three-year plan to end hunger.
The advocates in the group say action is needed because one in four children and one in eight seniors in New Mexico do not know where they will get their next meal.  This situation is often known as food insecurity.

The group's director, Nancy Pope, writes her own blog about related issues.

Check out Nancy's blog and our blog for updates and other information about the work of the group.