Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

Child Refugee Crisis of 2014: What’s in a Name?

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Ruby Galvez Roblero studies her school work at home in rural Guatemala. Her school is a direct beneficiary of USAID'S Food for Education, a program designed to help disadvantaged children perform better in school through increased nutrition (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Arnulfo Moreno

The border crisis: This was the overarching theme at this year’s convention for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Specifically the conference focused on how we should be talking about this humanitarian crisis, literally what words we should be using.

We hear that the unaccompanied minors were held at immigrant detention centers, then taken to an immigration court and had an immigration hearing. Webster’s, Oxford, and Wikipedia all agree that an immigrant is a person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country. Is that what these children are looking for, to live permanently in a foreign country? Is that why they left their home countries?

The ravaging effects of hunger, poverty, and violence are diminished under the term immigrant. The stunting and malnutrition that affect many of these children is concealed.   

Jonathan Ryan, executive director of RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), summed it up perfectly: “They are not coming here for summer camp. They are fleeing violence, seeking protection.”

A person who flees for refuge or safety is a refugee. These children aren’t coming here because they want to leave their loved ones and their countries behind. They are fleeing here because, for many, staying at home means a life of hunger, poverty, and violence. For some, it can mean certain death.

Violence, though only part of this complex issue, has played and continues to play a huge role in this recent migration. Gangs and drug cartels make more on narcotics and sex trafficking than the gross national product of many Central American countries. With this type of power comes the ability to oppress and terrorize. Until the situation in these countries improves, are we supposed to turn our backs on these child refugees just because they are not fleeing organized government oppression but instead organized crime? Should we wait until these crime syndicates declare themselves a government and come clean about the violence they are inflicting on these children?

Hopefully we can acknowledge these children as refugees and not downplay the reality that faces them. I can think of an even better label for these unaccompanied minors: human beings.

Learn more about the Child Regugee Crisis of 2014 here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Arnulfo Moreno is the media relations specialist at Bread for the World.

Famine Looms: United States Announces Food Aid for South Sudan

14407911395_021caa6586_kBy Robin Stephenson

There has been a lot of bad news in the world lately.  Though it is not always reported, many of the grimmest stories also involve hunger.

The innocent in Iraq evade death on mountaintops where the lucky find food aid dropped from the sky. Elsewhere in the Middle East, families huddle together in refugee camps and pray for peace. Children who flee poverty and violence in Central America arrive at our southern border hungry and traumatized. And in South Sudan, where the atrocities of civil conflict drive families from their homes, hunger is about to get worse.

Famine – a human-made obscenity – looms over the landlocked country of South Sudan in northeastern Africa. The world’s newest country, South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 but internal conflict has led to widespread food-insecurity. The United Nations is already struggling to feed an estimated 100,000 civilians. Sixteen-year old Nyiel Kutch, her mother, and five siblings made it to a Ugandan refugee camp in December of last year. She told The Guardian, “The place here is good, but the food is not enough for us.”

A hunger crisis becomes famine when four out of every 10,000 children die every day. Experts predict that South Sudan will qualify as early as December. Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters that 50,000 children under age five were at risk of dying of malnutrition in the coming months.

Yesterday, the United States announced it will send $180 million in emergency food aid to address the crisis. The funds will be distributed from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. The trust is a food reserve set aside and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to respond to unexpected food crises in developing countries.

Your advocacy efforts in the past are helping to feed hungry people in South Sudan today. Bread for the World was instrumental in the expansion and restructuring of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of the organization's 1998 Offering of Letters campaign, Africa: Seeds of Hope. Advocacy work started even earlier – 1977 and 1978 – when Bread activists began lobbying their members of Congress to establish the legislation.

In front of us is yet another opportunity that will pay dividends in the future. Changes in U.S. food aid policy can build resilience against future catastrophes. Food aid that takes into account the quality of food and not just quantity can stem the tide of needless deaths from malnutrition. The future of food aid is the Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421).

We can unlock food aid from archaic policy. By increasing program efficiency, flexibility, and improving the nutritional value of food aid, we can help 9 million more people – people like 16-year Nyiel Kutch – who deserve a future free of hunger.

While the news today may be overwhelming, as people of faith called to end hunger and love our neighbors. We must rise to the challenge and act for tomorrow. Urge your senators to cosponsor the Food for Peace Reform Act.

Learn more about food aid reform here:  www.bread.org/indistrict

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Photo:  South Sudan. (Stephen Padre/Bread for the World)

With Child Refugees, Who Are Members of Congress Listening To?

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Legislation passed Friday, August 8, in the House of Representatives revises a 2008 anti-trafficking law. Bread for the World strongly opposes repeals of the key anti-trafficking law that would deny Central American child migrants the right to adjudication before an immigration judge and due process protections.

Former Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader Leani Garcia wrote about this bill, “Who Are Christian Congressmen Listening To?” for Americas Quarterly. Following is an excerpt.

The Congressional Research Service has reported that between 87 and 89.8 percent members of U.S. Congress self-identify as Christian. The House members who voted for Friday’s immigration bills run the gamut of American Christian affiliations. There were members of mainline protestant groups like Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Lutherans; more conservative Christians like Southern Baptists, Assemblies of God and Church of God members, and non-denominational Christians; many Catholics, some Eastern Orthodox members, and even a few Mormons and Christian Scientists. …

Shouldn’t our representatives, at the very least, pay lip service to their Christian duty to love thy neighbor when they discuss the fate of these children? The fact that many of them can’t bring themselves to even refer to the children as refugees, or accept that violence, sky-high murder rates, and social exclusion—not DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]—are the primary drivers of the surge, speaks volumes.

The Bible says not to mistreat or withhold justice from a foreigner six times in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Zechariah. The Bible even goes so far as to say that the foreigner should be considered native-born, and that anyone who deprives or withholds justice from the foreigner will be swiftly judged and cursed. And just in case the Old Testament isn’t really your thing, both Matthew and Hebrews mention inviting in and showing hospitality to the stranger. Feeling especially protective of your citizenship? Philippians 3:20 tells Christians that their citizenship is in Heaven—no mention of the U.S. there.

But don’t just take my word for it. Christian umbrella organizations made up of members from various denominations—such as Church World Service, Bread for the World and Esperanza USA—as well as individual denominations widely represented in Congress—such as the Catholic Church (through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church—have been calling for a humanitarian approach to comprehensive immigration reform for years. Even traditionally conservative denominations have been pushing for reform through coalitions such as the Evangelical Immigration Table, Bible, Badges and Business, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference and even the Southern Baptist Convention—organizing prayer events, press releases and lobbying members of Congress.

American faith leaders of all stripes feel so strongly about deportations and immigration reform that 112 were arrested for civil disobedience when they protested in front of the White House on July 31.

While the overwhelming majority of members of Congress who voted for the restrictive bills last Friday may think they have nothing to lose in this midterm election, they should at least consider the long-term consequences of alienating Latino and Asian voters when determining their political platform.

And even if a long-term outreach strategy doesn’t factor into their political calculus, their actions beg the question: if the members of Congress who pride themselves on being Christians are not listening to the American people (including their constituents, such as the 59 percent of Tea Party Republicans who favor a path to citizenship), their faith leaders, or even their own holy book, who exactly are they listening to?

To find out more about Immigration Reform and Unaccompanied Children, please visit: http://www.bread.org/what-we-do/resources/toolkits/in-district-meetings/

Hunger in the News: Food Aid in Iraq, Roger Thurow Reports from Uganda, Changing Rural Poverty

A regular, non-comprehensive roundup of current news links on hunger and poverty issues from around the Web.

U.S. airdrops food aid to Iraqis trapped after fleeing militants,” by Patrick J. McDonnell and David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times. “U. S. cargo planes escorted by fighter jets dropped food, water and other supplies Thursday for tens of thousands of people who fled an advance by Sunni militant fighters in northern Iraq and are stranded on a barren mountain in danger of starvation, U.S. officials said.”

India seeking amendments to subsidy as it would hit food aid,” The Economic Times.  “India today said along with the G33 countries, it is seeking an amendments to the 10 per cent subsidy cap of the WTO as it would hit the food aid programmes in the developing countries.”

Meet the Journalist: Roger Thurow Reports on the 1,000 Days,” by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. “In northern Uganda, the mothers, who are smallholder farmers, are growing orange-flesh sweet potatoes rich in Vitamin A and a bean variety with higher iron levels.”

“Jesuits tell their alumni in Congress: Protect border children,” by David Gibson, Religion News Service. “American Jesuits are pushing members of Congress who were educated at the Catholic order’s schools to pass aid for thousands of refugee children who have surged across the border in Texas in recent months, calling proposals to swiftly deport them “inhumane and an insult to American values.”

“How rural poverty is changing: Your fate is increasingly tied to your town,” by Lydia DePillis, The Washington Post. “That’s the story of the new rural poverty in America: If your hometown went south, you probably did with it, unless you managed to get out and had the wherewithal to not come back.”

No More Hearings, No More Bills, Congress Is Headed Out for Summer,” by Becca Stanek, Time. “Especially because this is an election year, many members will be campaigning, visiting offices and town halls in their home states and holding town meetings.”

World Prayers for August 10-16: Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia

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Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. (Rexness, Creative Commons)

This is a new weekly prayer series that appears each Friday on the Bread Blog.

One aspect of Bread for the World’s new Bread Rising campaign is prayer (the campaign is asking Bread members to pray, act, and give). Staff of Bread for the World in Washington, D.C., gather every Friday morning for prayer, and as part of our participation in the Bread Rising campaign, we will be praying for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.
 
We will be following the Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, a list compiled by the World Council of Churches that enables Christians around the world to journey in prayer through every region of the world, affirming our solidarity with Christians all over the world, brothers and sisters living in diverse situations, experiencing their challenges and sharing their gifts.
 
We will especially be lifting up in prayer the challenges related to hunger and poverty that the people of each week’s countries face. In prayer, God’s story and our own story connect—and we and the world are transformed. In a prayer common to all of us—the Lord’s Prayer/the Our Father—we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This line from this prayer can also be a prayer for the end of hunger.
 
We invite you to join Bread staff in our prayers for the world’s countries to end hunger. And we encourage you to share with us your prayers for the featured countries of the week or for the end of hunger in general.

For the week of August 10 to 16, we will be praying for Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia.

Loving God, Master of all Creation, we come to you today in fervent supplication for our brothers and sisters in Christ on the other side of the world. Despite the distance on our vast earth, we are still connected by your eternal love and mercy as we are called to be in solidarity with all, especially those suffering from hunger and poverty in Australia and New Zealand. Poverty and hunger anywhere, experienced by anyone, is an affront to the dignity and potential of your wonderful and amazing creation. Lord, we know, just as we experience here, that hunger and poverty are in large part our creation. You provide us with all we will ever need and yet we, your servants, fail to realize the vision of your Kingdom. To you, we ask for strength, compassion, and persistence to lend our voices in prophetic call and in solidarity to urge our global leaders to prevent the tragedy of any child going to sleep at night with an empty stomach. We ask this and all things in your name, Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

Aotearoa/New Zealand:  27% of children live in poverty (The Annual Child Poverty Monitor)

Australia: 17.3% of  children live below the poverty line (ACOSS).

Illinois Faith Leaders Reflect on Global Hunger, Call for Food Aid Reform

Guatamala
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

By Zach Schmidt

What do your faith and experience say about global hunger and how has that compelled you to act?

We are called to widen our circle of concern to serve our neighbors across the street and across the globe. This was the consensus among faith leaders in Chicago’s North Shore communities during recent discussions on faith and hunger. As part of a broader campaign to reform U.S. food aid, we have been hosting a series of conversations with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the Chicago area over the summer. Participants have been challenged and enriched by hearing from those of different faiths and practices. While the language and supporting scriptures differ, the leaders have found common ground in the fight against hunger.

Bread for the World’s campaign calls on members of Congress to reform U.S. international food aid, so it can better respond to humanitarian emergencies and strengthen vulnerable communities against future catastrophes. The campaign also includes statewide faith leaders sign-on letters, and the Illinois letter alone has garnered more than 170 faith leaders’ signatures and counting. We continue to urge U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk to lead on this issue.

Some of the leaders and their congregations, like Rabbi Wendi Geffen and North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois, are already well-acquainted with advocating for reform. Rabbi Geffen’s congregation wrote letters last year in support of food aid reform in partnership with American Jewish World Service, an ally with Bread for the World on this issue. Others leaders are deeply committed to global development projects but have not yet engaged in advocacy. But once the issue is presented and the case is made that we can help millions more hungry people, more quickly, while building long-term resilience, and more efficiently utilize our taxpayer dollars, the response becomes, “Well, what are we waiting for?”

Over the past few months, there have been a handful of votes in Congress that affect food aid. Faith leaders have been briefed and have weighed in on these votes. But we can help even more people through reforms embodied in the bipartisan Food for Peace Reform Act of 2014 (S. 2421). This bill would make our food aid more flexible and efficient, freeing up as much as $440 million per year to feed up to 9 million more people faster. The bill makes common sense reforms, including ending the constraints that require our food aid to be grown in the United States and shipped on designated (and more costly) vessels. This adds substantial time and cost to the delivery of food aid, a matter of life-and-death when we are responding to hunger and humanitarian disasters in places like Haiti, Syria and South Sudan.

Faith leaders in the Chicago area—and across the country—are saying the status quo is unacceptable and indefensible, and it’s time for change. Urge your senator to co-sponsor S. 2421 and help build momentum to pass the bill.

Fact Sheet: International Food Aid Reform

Bill Analysis: Food for Peace Reform Act

Zach Schmidt is regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.

Border Eyewitness

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Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Ricardo Moreno

It is one thing to hear the media reports, and another thing to witness what is happening with the unaccompanied children arriving from Central America. I recently visited the city of Murrieta, California, where a Border Patrol station was processing children who had arrived on buses from the Rio Grande Valley, where they crossed into the United States. Regardless of the politics of the issue, it was heartbreaking to witness the hate and visceral reactions of some individuals and groups. I saw a group of 50 people holding signs saying, “We don’t want diseases” and, “Stop the invasion.” This was right after two buses brought refugee children from Texas to Murrieta.

It made me question people’s hearts and humanity. I could not understand such hatred toward children. Children are the most vulnerable people. They did not choose where they were born, their neighborhoods, or their families. No matter where someone is on the political spectrum, how can they demonstrate this level of hate toward children?

These are children who are frightened. Their ages range from two years old to seventeen years old and everything in between. As a father, I cannot imagine my 14-year-old son or my 10-year-old daughter making the trip from Guatemala or El Salvador. But the reality is that this is not new. For many, as with the new child migrants, America represents an escape from hunger, poverty, and violence.  

Contrary to the hateful responses that we see in the media, many churches have responded with compassion and care for these child migrants. Here in Los Angeles, Roman Catholic churches were the first to respond. The Bishop of the Diocese of San Bernardino publicly asked his parishioners to welcome the children. In my own neighborhood, the Saint Joseph Catholic Church opened its doors to host 56 children. They made sure that these children have access to food, clothes, beds, and showers. Two days later, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church took a really active role. Now many churches are also responding.

As we respond to the needs of child migrants, I am reminded of the very first victory we achieved as Bread for the World. In 1975, we convinced Congress to pass a historic resolution saying that every person has a right to food, even migrant children.  We need to treat today’s migrant children with love and compassion. They are children of God, God’s own creation. Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” May we work together with our brothers and sisters to meet our goals of writing hunger into history.

*

Fact Sheet: The Child Refugee Crisis of 2014

Ricardo Moreno is Bread for the World’s associate for Latino relations.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter.

The Perfect Food: Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

Pisano program
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Robin Stephenson

Breastfeeding was not something I expected to be a key point in a sermon on hunger, until I heard Rev. Dr. James Forbes.

“In God’s world, food is not negotiable,” said the renowned preacher to those gathered for a homiletics course in Portland, Oregon, last year. He paused to let the statement sink in. “God made the arrangement that every child has food to eat.”

Rev. Forbes was talking about breastfeeding. Women are designed to produce not just food, but the perfect food.

Earlier in the year, I visited a local WIC clinic – a domestic nutrition program designed to help women, infants, and children at nutritional risk. Walking in the door, I was greeted by a poster on the wall. One side of the sheet was a short list of the ingredients in formula with a lot of hard-to-pronounce words. The other side included the long list of what comprises breast milk – ingredients that change over time with the baby’s nutritional needs. Wow, I thought, God is an amazing creator!

It is World Breastfeeding Week, a yearly campaign to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. The perfect food is a key resource in combatting hunger and malnutrition.

Globally, malnutrition leads to about 3 million deaths of children under five each year – deaths that could be prevented. There is a critical1,000-day “window of opportunity” between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday where nutrition is vitally important. Investments in nutrition interventions can prevent stunting and other harmful consequences of malnutrition. Nutrients received through breastfeeding provide important protections to fight infection and disease. Malnutrition, especially in children under age 2, can affect brain development, cognitive performance, and even earning potential later in life. Yet, only 37 percent of the world’s babies are breastfed for the recommended six months.

World leaders are starting to see nutrition as an ingredient of economic growth. In this week’s U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C., Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said, “We invest so much in infrastructure, in bridges and roads. But most important is grey matter. We really need to invest in that.” It was reported from the Summit that poorly fed children rob Africa of up to 16 percent of its potential growth. Exclusive breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition is one of the best investments Africa can make – one of the best investments every country should make in their children.

Lawmakers in the United States have a role to play. The United States has a global nutrition strategy through USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development), but Congress has proposed budget cuts to international programs that promote nutrition. Domestic nutrition programs like WIC, which help American mothers learn about breastfeeding, have seen their funding shrink over the last few years.

Adequate funding for programs that invest in nutrition both here and abroad is a smart investment. After all, in God’s world, food is not negotiable.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior organizer in the western hub.

Quote of the Day: David Beckmann

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 Grandmothers in Jinja, Uganda. The proportion of undernourished people in the developing world decreased from 23.2 percent in 1990–1992 to 14.9 percent in 2010–2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

"Among other success stories, growth and sustainability in Africa are a testament to the fact that targeted foreign assistance works. The sub-Saharan African countries that received the most assistance in the past 10 years have made, on average, twice as much progress in areas like health and literacy as the continent overall.”

-David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, writes about this year’s U.S.-Africa Summit in a Huffington Post piece, “Africa Restores Our Belief That Ending Hunger Is Possible.” 

Beckman highlights three pieces of legislation that will maintain progress on ending extreme poverty on the continent of Africa and across the globe. The Corker-Coons bill (S.2421) to reform food aid, the Feed the Future initiative, and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) are all critical pieces of legislation that Congress should pass to redouble our efforts to end hunger around the world.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

They Are Our Children

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Poverty, hunger, and violence have caused a surge in child migration to the United States from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Rev. Carlos L. Malavé

The most important responsibility of the Church is to promote, nurture, and protect human life and dignity. When the Church relinquishes this duty because of political expediency, or even in defense of its theological and ideological convictions, it loses its moral grounding and credibility.

The Church is called to be the most unequivocal expression of the heart and conscience of Christ. The way we respond to the cries of the children of God either affirms our legitimacy or exposes our failure. Our allegiance is not to the political, theological, or sociological winds of the time. Our allegiance is to the one who will call us into account when the last act of the human drama wraps up.

Every follower of Christ, every minister, and every local congregation must offer refuge to those seeking freedom, healing, and salvation. Our ears cannot become deaf to the words of Jesus: “Because you did it unto one of these little ones, you have done it unto me.”

In an introduction to a published sermon of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American Dream,” Bishop T.D. Jakes, Sr. says, “It would appear to me that in many ways our country has lowered its head into the soft satiny pillow of apathy. We have been lulled to sleep by indifference and rest in the vain pursuit of economical images of success while a stone’s throw away there are children dying in the streets” (A Knock at Midnight, p. 79).

There are children dying in the streets of Chicago and Philadelphia, and there are also children dying in the Sonoran Desert and the Rio Grande. They are our children. They are our children because we are one human family. The children of Salvadorian, Honduran, and Guatemalan families are as human and as important as my own three children. How can anyone think that their own children have the right to live in peace and security while denying this same right to others?

Pastors and members of our congregations must guard their souls from apathy and the callousness that pervade our political and economic systems. We are called to be Christ to all, but in a very intentional and biased way, we must be Christ to destitute, hungry, and oppressed people. Our actions, care, and concern for poor people reveal the presence or absence of the living Christ in us.

The Church in the United States must seize this incredible opportunity. We are followers of the one who said, “Let the children come to me…” (Luke 18:16). How do we dare to send them away? The Church is responsible before God’s eyes to live—or even to die—in the pursuit and defense of human live and dignity. Christ is in the journey with our children. Christ is a witness of our actions. Christ is also calling us.

Rev. Carlos L. Malavé is the executive director of Christian Churches Together, an ecumenical organization that brings together a wide variety of denominations and organizations to build relationships with each other. Bread for the World is a participating organization.

This post originally appeared in Bread for the World's August online newsletter

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