Saturday, October 13, 2012

Electing to Form a Circle of Protection Vigil (The Words of the Reflection)

(People are asked to gather in a circle and light their candles)

Rev. Donna McNiel
We are gathered in this space as people of faith to contemplate hunger, poverty and justice 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 Mark 12.  A version of this account is also found in Matthew 22 and Luke 10.

Joy Carroll
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

Musical Interlude (Instrumental)  - Come and Fill

Carlos Navarro
We gather here as people of faith to commemorate World Food Day and to reaffirm our commitment to proclaim, to act and to reaffirm God’s commandment to promote social justice for all people on earth. We represent Bread for the World.  Interfaith Power and Light.  Oxfam Action Corps.  Roadrunner Food Bank. The Catholic Medical Mission Board.  And many other organizations and communities.  We live in a country where citizens have an important role in influencing government, and as such we call on Congress to form a Circle of Protection around federal programs that help the poor and vulnerable here at home and overseas.

Joseph Sandoval
The 2012 election comes at a time when the U.S. faces the highest poverty rates in decades, when the wealth gap has reached historic levels and income disparities are high, and when government officials face stark choices about who will benefit and who will suffer as a result of the decisions they make. Will those decisions be based on the common good? Will they foster economic justice and peace? Or will our nation become mired in injustice and division?

Sister Joan Brown
As people of faith, we believe that our economic arrangements with each other should serve to support God’s creation and should help the human community to flourish. We therefore challenge the current economic reality that traps families in poverty for generations. The widening gap in income and wealth, as well as the persistence of poverty, especially among children, are inconsistent with God’s intention for this world.

The Interfaith Coalition for a Faithful Budget said it best: It is our responsibility, both individually and collectively, to respond to those who are in need — people living in poverty have sacrificed more than enough on the altar of deficit reduction. We need a more progressive tax code, where all members of the community carry their fair share of the responsibility, not only to ensure that we can meet immediate need while simultaneously reducing our deficits, but also to begin to address the astronomical growth in disparity over the last thirty years.

Alicia Sedillo
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
Sister Joan Brown Leads People into chapel.

Inside the Chapel

Kalen Olsen
My name is Kalen Olsen.  And I am Jasmine McBeath.  We are Co-Organizers for the New Mexico Chapter of Oxfam Action Corps.

Every year, the global community commemorates World Food Day on October 16. Today, we join the millions of people around the world who mark this important day by remembering those who go without sufficient nourishment for their bodies.

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.

Jasmine McBeath
When you sit down to eat every day, do you think about how the meal you're eating is the product of a complex, and broken, global food system? This World Food Day, Oxfam America is teaming up with a host of allies across the US and around the globe. We have a simple yet compelling idea—to host a World Food Day dinner October 16th that fosters a conversation about where your food comes from, who cultivates it, and how you can take personal actions that will make the food system more just and sustainable.

If we consciously take steps, not just on World Food Day, but every day, to eat more justly, than we honor not only ourselves, but people struggling with hunger and poverty throughout the world. Not only Oxfam America, but many faith traditions as well, encourage us to remember who and what are impacted by what we eat and drink. Eating local and fair trade is not only healthier for our bodies and the environment, but also respects others’ ability to justly earn a living and care for their families.

Musical Interlude: (Instrumental)

Michaela Bruzzese
My name is Michaela Bruzzese.  I am a member of the Sojourners family.  I worked at Call to Renewal, Sojourners church organizing effort, and am also a contributing writer.  Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners was one of the original creators of the Circle of Protection.

St. Augustine of Hippo expressed a sentiment that we all take to heart today:  Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.

This is what Lindsey Kerr of the Graduate Theological Union’s Asia Project says:

The difference is that charity tends to empower the person in power, making that person feel good about giving away their excess. Justice works to rectify the system that gives a privileged few all of that excess to begin with, and seeks to create a world where all will have enough.

Simply put, in a just world where society operates to benefit the masses, charity will be unnecessary. As people of faith and goodwill, we will still be called to do acts of loving kindness for one another, but it will no longer be that a privileged minority gains moral superiority by doing charity for those treated unjustly.  

Joseph Sandoval 
We seek justice for the refugees and those who suffer because of disasters.  

Last year, The House of Representatives voted on a budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012, cutting emergency food assistance by 75 percent compared with Fiscal Year 2008 levels.

So why are we cutting this type of support when the Horn of Africa is suffering its worst drought in 60 years? 

“The budget cuts would make it all but impossible for us to respond to crises like these in the future,” said Tony Hall, director of the nonprofit Alliance to End Hunger and a former U.S. representative from Ohio.
According to Hall, who also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), these cuts put more than 12 million people at risk of serious malnutrition, starvation, and even death.

Else Tasseron
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. 

Studies show that many Americans believe the U.S. government spends as much as a quarter of its federal budget on foreign assistance. Or that foreign assistance is wasteful and ineffective. The truth is that poverty-focused foreign assistance comprises just 0.6 percent of the federal budget.

U.S. poverty-focused foreign assistance touches millions of lives and transforms poverty and despair into life and dignity. Increasing the effectiveness and delivery of foreign assistance can move people from suffering to dignity—mothers can live through childbirth, infants can survive the clutches of parasitic illness, boys and girls can learn to read, and parents can earn enough to feed their families.  Poverty focused foreign assistance promotes development and long-term sustainability.  Our funds should help, for example, to build up the ability of people in Haiti to grow their own rice rather than relying on imports from the United States or other countries. 
We must protect funding for poverty-focused foreign assistance.

But we must think of those who suffer hunger as people and not as statistics.

Sharon Barefoot
My name is Sharon Barefoot.  I served as a volunteer nurse for a year with the Catholic Medical Mission Board, mostly at St. Francois de Sales Hospital.  You have heard all the statistics about poverty in places like Haiti.  I want to take this opportunity to put a face on poverty.

I've been back from Ayiti aka Haïti, for nine weeks and two days. I was SO excited to come home and to eat New Mexican food and not be seen as the blan or white person. I can't imagine people who are stigmatized all their lives with a title that limits them, for I was tired of a title that wasn't limiting.

Almost everywhere I went in Haiti I would hear people calling me "blan", trying to get my attention, my resources, my English skills and who was I to say no. Everyday I would hear, M'grangou (I'm hungry), "Give me one dollar", or Bum mwen (Give me). 

At times when I heard blan, I felt they were really saying,"I see a dollar symbol, not a person", but deep down I know people saw opportunity for connection. It took time to accept that I wasn't each person's savior. I was a friend, and sometimes that meant giving through a kind word, a joke, my nursing skills, and yes, sometimes it meant being a financial resource. It took time to build the relationships I now cherish.
I never thought it would be such a challenge to give. I have SO much and yet as a volunteer I didn't have the same resources I would have as a working American... and I wanted to give so much more. More to the child begging on the street, the woman with nine children, the man who needed surgery. It seems there was always one more hand outstretched to receive and I knew being at the hospital, I would need to use resources for emergencies.

Musical Interlude - Holy Spirt, Come to Us

Alicia Sedillo
In the United States, there is one legislative initiative that addresses both international and domestic food policy.  The Farm Bill, as we call it, is a comprehensive piece of legislation that is passed every five years.  Farm bills can be highly controversial and can impact international trade, environmental conservation, food safety, domestic poverty programs, and the well-being of rural communities. The agricultural subsidy programs mandated by the farm bills are the subject of intense debate both within the U.S. and internationally.

Donna Marlow
My name is Donna Marlow.  I work at Roadrunner Food Bank.  Hunger is a serious problem in America. More than 50 million Americans—including more than one in five children—live in households that struggle to put food on the table. One way to reduce hunger is through federal nutrition programs, which meets some of the food needs of millions of children and other vulnerable people. These programs serve one in four Americans annually.

Yet, federal nutrition programs are targeted for hurtful cuts to our fellow New Mexicans. This spring, the House of Representatives voted on a budget resolution that cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by $133.5 billion—nearly 20 percent over 10 years—and recommended turning the program into a block grant. Current funding for SNAP covers eligible families, responding as need rises and falls. Under a block grant, SNAP would give a set amount of money to states every year, limiting state’s ability to respond quickly and in times of economic strife in our community.

The farm bill—which governs federal farm and food policy, including SNAP—presents an opportunity to continue, alter, or discontinue federal farm and nutrition programs. As the largest share of agricultural spending, SNAP is targeted for cuts in the Senate too. The Senate version includes a $4.5 billion cut to SNAP leading to 500,000 SNAP households in 14 states and the District of Columbia being cut out of the program entirely.

In New Mexico, there is high poverty and hunger (nearly 25% in our state).  SNAP lasts an average family 2.3 weeks in NM and families on SNAP currently already seek additional help with food from charitable food programs such as food banks, food pantries, and other meal programs to make it through the rest of the month.  If cuts to SNAP do occur, not only will New Mexico have 38.5 million fewer meals to provide to the most vulnerable people in our community, but charities providing food help to hungry people will experience skyrocketing need.  This increase placed on the charitable food system would be so severe that it could inhibit our ability to help those who need our help the most.  

Joseph Sandoval
When times get tough in low-income households, the food budget is usually the first thing families cut. We can’t end hunger as long as people lack the financial resources they need to put food on the table. Government nutrition programs protect the neediest among us, and faithful citizens must  respond and protect these  vital programs.  We also must find ways to empower working families.   Continuing and extending the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit are current levels would accomplish this goal.

Sister Joan Brown
My name is Sister Joan Brown.  I am the New Mexico director of the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light.  I bring a brief word about the Faithful Budget, Faithful Stewardship campaign promoted by the National Council of Churches.  We believe budgets are moral documents that reflect the priorities of their communities, and responsible Christian stewardship requires advocacy for the appropriate use of shared resources.  Policymakers have a wide variety of options within the general framework of raising taxes and cutting spending, as Christians we are called to advocate for a budget that protects all people and God’s creation. 

We can begin by examining the amount of subsidies we devote to fossil fuels.  These subsidies encompass nearly 10-point-2 billion dollars of taxpayers money to coal, oil, and natural gas companies every year. This is money that could easily be allocated to important programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (also known as WIC), the Children Health Insurance Program, the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, Head Start, and Water Infrastructure.

By reducing subsidies, we ask the energy companies to be more responsible with the environment and at the same time support our communities.

Carlos Navarro
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 Bruzzese: Funding focused on reducing poverty should not be cut. It should be made as effective as possible, but not cut.

Ed Dzienis
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.

Musical Interlude - Where There is Charity

3. Jamine McBeath We urge our leaders to protect and improve poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world.
4. Kalen Olsen National leaders must review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.

Joseph Sandoval
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.
Our God calls us to solidarity with the hungry and poor. 

Alicia Sedillo
La Madre Teresa de Calcuta fue un ejemplo viviente de la capacidad humana para generar amor infinito.  Reflexionamos con sus palabras.
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.
Cuando sufra,
dame alguien que necesita consuelo; 

Carlos Navarro
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

5. Donna Marlow 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. Joan Brown 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?"

Joseph Sandoval
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. 

Joy Carroll
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." 

Carlos Navarro
"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".

Joy Carroll
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.”
We practice solidarity through Fair Trade.  Let’s take for example, coffee.
One of the symbols on Archbishop Oscar Romero’s tomb in El Salvador is a coffee bean sprig, signifying how he stood with the poor of El Salvador, accompanying them in the midst of hardship and struggle. May we, too, embrace coffee as a symbol of our solidarity, of our struggle, of our fellowship with each other and with the poor and vulnerable around the world, and may we continue to “plant the seeds” toward our vision of justice.

Musical Interlude  - Eat This Bread

7. Sharon Barefoot 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. Alicia Sedillo God continues to shower our nation and the world with blessings. As Christians, we are rooted in the love of God in Jesus.

Ed Dzienis
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.”

Michaela Bruzzese
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.

Else Tasseron
God calls us to fast.
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. 

Alicia Sedillo
    ¿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?

Carlos Navarro   
    ¿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 Senor responderá;
         clamarás, y El dirá: "Heme aquí."

Rev. Greg Henneman
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 Closing In The Lord I’ll Be Ever Thankful
(as Liturgical Dancer leads congregation to the basement)

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