|Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World|
(People are asked to gather in a circle and light their candles)
We are gathered in this space as people of faith to contemplate on hunger and poverty and our response as people of faith.
We come into the presence of our Creator with humble hearts, recognizing that we are powerless on our own. We recognize our indebtedness to God.
But we also come together in this circle with the knowledge that as human beings we are all connected to each other. In recognition of our common bonds, please take this opportunity to greet your neighbor to your right and to your left.
Please light your candles and join us in a few moments of silent reflection. The candle represents a light of hope.
Before we begin, I would ask that we first center ourselves in God and consider the following verse from Matthew 22. A version of this account is also found in Mark 12 and Luke 10.
“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
Musical Interlude Come and Fill (Instrumental)
Early this year, Bread for the World helped organize a coalition of Christian denominations and organizations committed to resisting budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people.
As the coalition was forming, Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, Tony Hall, executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, and Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, began a fast during Lent to draw attention to FY2011 budget proposals that drastically cut programs for hungry and poor people. Thousands of activists, leaders of nonprofit organizations and corporations, and people of other faiths joined them in urging Congress to protect these programs. When the FY2011 budget was passed, the cuts to these programs were lower than had been originally proposed.
David Beckmann explains the urgency for us to act.
"Everything we have achieved for poor and hungry people in the last 35 years is under severe threat of budget cuts—nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and SNAP (formerly food stamps), as well as poverty-focused development assistance," he says.
The fast and the Circle of Protection campaign generated extensive print, radio, and television coverage. And thousands of people have raised their voices through letters, phone calls, and personal visits to Congress; through letters to the editor and opinion pieces; through discussions at town hall meetings and call-in shows.
And even though Congress moved to make some reductions in the budget for fiscal year 2011, the cuts to important programs were lower than had been originally proposed.
As the budget discussions for fiscal year 2012 move forward, we will continue to raise our voices. Our faith does not allow us to stand still on this, so we remain steadfast in urging Congress to protect the most vulnerable people in our global society when they make future spending decisions.
Inspired by a common spiritual conviction that God has called on all Americans to protect the vulnerable and promote the dignity of all individuals living in society, we take this opportunity to pray for a just and compassionate federal budget. We appeal to our federal legislators and our president to protect those struggling to overcome poverty in the U.S. and abroad, and to exclude programs that protect people in poverty from the U.S. budget deficit debates.
We believe that the federal budget is a moral document. We affirm government’s role in serving the common good. We have come to Washington to meet with Congressional leaders and to join with you in daily prayer for a global economy and a federal budget that break the yokes of injustice, poverty, hunger and unemployment throughout the world.
Como fieles cristianos, urgimos al Congreso y la administración a otorgar una prioridad moral a los programas que protegen la vida y dignidad de los más pobres y necesitados en estos tiempos difíciles, en nuestra quebrada economía y en nuestro lastimado mundo.
Musical Interlude Come and Fill (sung)
Diane Martinez Hursh. liturgical dancer, leads People into Sanctuary
INSIDE THE CHAPEL
Let us begin by pondering a bit about hunger and poverty.
Hunger. Everyone agrees that it should not exist. And yet, the statistics tell us that hunger is prevalent.
More than 1 billion people in the world go hungry.
In the United States, over 49 million people—including 16.7 million children—live in households that struggle to put food on the table. That means one in seven households in the U.S. are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.
So what is hunger? I can give you a clinical definition.
Hunger pains occur when an individual has not consumed food or drink for an extended period of time. Muscle contractions begin to occur when the stomach has been empty for several hours. As the contractions take place, the sensation may be somewhat unpleasant and interpreted as painful.
Very few of us understand what hunger really is.
Our concept of hunger is an image of starving people in the Horn of Africa, Calcutta or Haiti. The pain of hunger is Horn of Africa is very much in the news these days with the emergency faced by Somalian refugees.
Consider the words of journalist Nicholas Kristof, who traveled to the Horn of Africa in September of this year.
“What’s most heartbreaking about starving children isn’t the patches of hair that fall out, the mottled skin and painful sores, the bones poking through taut skin. No, it’s the emptiness in their faces.
These children are conscious and their eyes follow you — but lethargically, devoid of expression, without tears or screams or even frowns. A starving child shuts off emotions, directing every calorie to keep vital organs functioning.
The United Nations warns that the famine in the Horn of Africa could kill 750,000 people in the coming months, and tens of thousands have already died.”
But hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness.
In essence, hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food.
We are called to reflect on this for a few minutes.
Musical Interlude Holy Spirt, Come to Us
Candles: Carlos Navarro, Michaela Bruzzeze
The Organizers of the Circle of Protection Offer us eight Key Principles We light a candle for each of the Principles
1. Carlos Navarro,: The nation needs to substantially reduce future deficits, but not at the expense of hungry and poor people.
2. Michaela Bruzzeze: Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.
The singer Bono said in his prayer breakfast at the White House in February 2006.
Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.
Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.
I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.
Please sit in silence and ponder this in your hearts.
|Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World|
Candles: Rosie Shawver, Carlos Navarro
3. Rosie Shawver We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
4. Carlos Navarro National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.
God calls us to step outside our comfortable bubble and to recognize the poor and hungry among us. There are the poor who are visible, like the homeless man who greets us at the sidewalk or the television image of the victim of the devastating earthquake in Haiti who is wandering the streets of Port-Au-Prince in search of food.
There are people whose hunger is hidden from us because we are too busy with our own lives to look.
Each year, 3 million under-five children die because they are undernourished. Far more children live with undernutrition than die from it. For infants and young children, the effects of chronic malnutrition in the early years of life are largely irreversible.
“Consider the case of Wambua Kangaa, who was brought to Kisesini Clinic in eastern Kenya by her mother because of weight loss. At 11 months of age, Wambua weighs only 12 pounds.
Her mother walked a long distance from her village to bring her to the Kisesini Clinic in the hope of a cure for her illness – the illness of hunger. The Global Health Partnerships medical team prescribed and dispensed the appropriate “medicine”: Food.”
Countries in which a large portion of the population battles hunger daily are usually poor and often lack the social safety nets we enjoy, such as soup kitchens, food stamps, and job training programs. When a family that lives in a poor country cannot grow enough food or earn enough money to buy food, there is nowhere to turn for help.
In 2005, almost 1.4 billion people lived below the international poverty line, earning less than $1.25 per day. The World Bank estimates that the spike in global food prices in 2008, followed by the global economic recession in 2009 and 2010 has pushed between 100-150 million people into poverty.
Among this group of poor people, many have problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for themselves and their families. As a result, 947 million people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth.
Undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation.
Economically, the constant securing of food consumes valuable time and energy of poor people, allowing less time for work and earning income.
Our God calls us to solidarity with the hungry and poor.
|Photo: Carlos Navarro|
La Madre Teresa de Calcuta fue un ejemplo viviente de la capacidad humana para generar amor infinito. Reflexionamos con sus palabras.
UNA ORACIÓN PARA APRENDER A AMAR
Señor, cuando tenga hambre,
dame alguien que necesite comida;
Cuando tenga sed,
dame alguien que precise agua;
Cuando sienta frío,
dame alguien que necesite calor.
dame alguien que necesita consuelo;
Cuando mi cruz parezca pesada,
déjame compartir la cruz del otro;
Cuando me vea pobre,
pon a mi lado algún necesitado.
Cuando no tenga tiempo,
dame alguien que precise de mis minutos;
Cuando sufra humillación,
dame ocasión para elogiar a alguien;
Cuando esté desanimado,
dame alguien para darle nuevos ánimos.
Cuando quiera que los otros me comprendan,
dame alguien que necesite de mi comprensión;
Cuando sienta necesidad de que cuiden de mí,
dame alguien a quien pueda atender;
Cuando piense en mí mismo,
vuelve mi atención hacia otra persona.
Haznos dignos, Señor,
de servir a nuestros hermanos;
Dales, a través de nuestras manos,
no sólo el pan de cada día,
también nuestro amor misericordioso,
imagen del tuyo.
Musical Interlude Bendigo al Señor
|Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World|
5. Michaela Bruzzeze A fundamental task is to create jobs and spur economic growth. Decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.
6. Rosie Shawver The budget debate has a central moral dimension. Christians are asking how we protect "the least of these." "What would Jesus cut?" "How do we share sacrifice?"
God does not call us to be guilty. Guilt can be paralyzing. Or it can lead to one-time actions that often do not provide a lasting solution.
God calls us to examine our lifestyles and consider how we are contributing to the problem.
God calls us to fast, to clear our minds, our hearts and our stomachs so we can better show solidarity with
those who are in need. But it’s more than solidarity, we must feel deep empathy.
God calls us to advocacy
In recent comments to the press, heads of diverse Christian organizations said that politicians in both parties have failed to bring moral leadership to the budget debate. In the words of the Christian leaders:
"These choices are economic, political—and moral. As Christians, we believe the moral measure of the debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up—how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). They do not have powerful lobbies, but they have the most compelling claim on our consciences and common resources. The Christian community has an obligation to help them be heard, to join with others to insist that programs that serve the most vulnerable in our nation and around the world are protected."
"Como cristianos", afirma el Reverendo Samuel Rodríguez presidente de la Asociación Evangélica Hispana, "nuestra agenda no puede estar dictada por el burro o el elefante, sino únicamente por el Cordero. En la medida en que se relaciona con el actual debate fiscal y presupuestario, nuestro país tiene un imperativo moral para equilibrar el presupuesto, reducir el déficit y poner en orden las cuentas fiscales; todo ello sin sacrificar a los más vulnerables en el altar de la urgencia. Mateo 25 y Lucas 4 nos imponen reconciliar la obligación financiera con la ayuda a los más pobres y necesitados".
God calls us to solidarity
As Thomas Merton says:
“From the moment you put a piece of bread in your mouth you are part of the world. Who grew the wheat? Who made the bread? Where did it come from? You are in relationship with all who brought it to the table.
We are least separate and most in common when we eat and drink.”
Musical Interlude Eat This Bread
|Photo: Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World|
7. Carlos Navarro As believers, we turn to God with prayer and fasting, to ask for guidance as our nation makes decisions about our priorities as a people.
8. Michaela Bruzzeze God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus.
God calls us to tears
Sister Joan Chittster says: If we do not allow ourselves to face and feel pain, we run the risk of entombing ourselves in a plastic bubble where our lies about life shrink our hearts and limit our vision. It is not healthy, for instance, to say that massive poverty is sad but “normal.”
God calls us to justice
Bono says. We have the means. The financial costs to end hunger are relatively slight. The United Nations Development Program estimates that the basic health and nutrition needs of the world's poorest people could be met for an additional $13 billion a year. Animal lovers in the United States and Europe spend more than that on pet food each year.
It's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.
Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.
And that's too bad.
Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.
But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.
6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drugstore. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.
Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it.
Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.
It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.
And Bono says again:
Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That's a justice issue.
Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that's a justice issue.
And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.
That's why I say there's the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?
As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.
God will not accept that.
Mine won't, at least. Will yours?
God calls us to a true fast, as in Isaiah 58
‘Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?’
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast-day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
¿Es ése el ayuno que yo escogí para que un día se humille el hombre?
¿Es acaso para que incline su cabeza como un junco,
y para que se acueste en cilicio y ceniza?
¿Llamaréis a esto ayuno y día acepto al SEÑOR?
¿No es éste el ayuno que yo escogí:
desatar las ligaduras de impiedad,
soltar las coyundas del yugo,
dejar ir libres a los oprimidos,
y romper todo yugo?
¿No es para que partas tu pan con el hambriento,
y recibas en casa a los pobres sin hogar;
para que cuando veas al desnudo lo cubras,
y no te escondas de tu semejante?
Entonces tu luz despuntará como la aurora,
y tu recuperación brotará con rapidez;
delante de ti irá tu justicia;
y la gloria del SEÑOR será tu retaguardia.
Entonces invocarás, y el SEÑOR responderá;
clamarás, y El dirá: "Heme aquí."
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Musical Interlude In The Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful
as Diane Martinez Hursh. leads congregation to the basement.