Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

175 posts categorized "Social Justice"

Transformative Conversations on Faith and Race in Florida

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Clergy at the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla. Blair Hall for Bread for the World.

By Dan DeBevoise

I’ve been in conversation for a while with a friend and community organizer about the possibility of gathering people from our local community to talk about race relations. We talked about having honest, intimate conversations. We talked about sharing in the context of our faith.

I had no idea how important, inspiring, and transformational such an event would be until we actually did it. I thank God that Bread for the World and Faith in Florida provided the opportunity by sponsoring the Symposium on Faith and Race in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. 

Sometimes it seems that the most significant leap is the one from talking to taking action. Bread and Faith in Florida made it possible for us to take that big, sometimes intimidating step. 

Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director for Faith and Formation at PICO National Network, opened the event by teaching two Zulu phrases: a greeting, “Sawu Bona,” which means “I see you,” and the response, “Sikhona,” which means, “I am here.”  This set the tone for our work together. We learned anew the power and affirmation of deeply acknowledging the presence of another person’s full humanity – “I see you.”  And we were asked to experience the freedom of being present in the fullness of our humanity – “I am here.”  

We did the risky work of sitting down with another person different from ourselves and asking, “Can I share a story of something important that happened to me that I want you to know?”  And we did the hard work of listening to one another in ways that opened us to the truth of whom they are and whom we are. 

We sought the truth about our communities and society. We listened to panelists describe the circumstances and challenges they face every day: youth, single women, people of color, people who know poverty and have struggled with hunger and feeding their families. 

Throughout the event, we listened to each other, we pushed each other, we embraced each other, we encouraged each other, we challenged each other, and we walked with each other (literally on a march in downtown Orlando,) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Selma march.

Then, to conclude, Rev. Dr. James Forbes led us in worship. Forbes shared the powerful proclamation that God is in the business of erasing the boundaries and barriers that we set up to protect ourselves from each other. We were given in worship the gift of unity that comes by the love of God for all people: praising, praying, singing, proclaiming God’s word of reconciliation and justice. We were in that moment a part of the beloved community.    

In the big picture, it may look like a small step, but for me, it was a big step. And definitely a step in the right direction.   

Dan DeBevoise is a co-pastor at Park Lake Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Fla.

 

Women's History Month: The Power of the Collective Voice

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By Jennifer Gonzalez

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms are celebrating the ingenuity, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor holds a distinctive place in our nation’s history as the first Hispanic appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is also only the third woman to serve in the nation’s highest court.

Sotomayor has credited her mother as her “life inspiration.” It a reminder of how important it is for women to support each other, whether it’s our own mother, a co-worker, a college mentor, or a best friend.

The 2015 Hunger Report When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger notes that the power of women’s “collective voice” is essential to solving the world’s many social ills such as persistent poverty and hunger. For example, the report highlights the work of Bread for the World’s Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement, which is focused on the importance of nutrition for pregnant women and young children, especially during the 1,000-day window (from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday).

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

 

Scriptural Manna: 'Give The King Your Justice'

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Editor's note: Bread Blog is running a year-long series exploring passages from The Poverty & Justice Bible published by the American Bible Society (Contemporary English Version). The intent is a theological exploration at the intersection of social justice and religion. The blog posts will be written by members of the church relations staff at Bread for the World.

"Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice." (Psalms 72:1, 2)

God expects those in government to look after the well-being of all its citizens. And special attention should be paid to people struggling with poverty, God says.  In other words, the civil authority has the power and means to help people who are poor and marginalized in society, and it should do so. The Bible is clear that all authority has been given by God and those in authority are God’s servants. However, some in civil authority today do not acknowledge that. The fact is that God holds them and us accountable for the manner in which we exercise the stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to us. Good governance is one of the many gifts given to us for the common good, and it should be exercised with equality and righteousness to all.

Genesis tells us that God gave Adam and Eve the power to subdue the earth. In doing so, man and woman have been given the ability to develop government systems and structures to care for one another and for the house in which they live, planet earth. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-28 demonstrates that God will hold us individually accountable for our stewardship.  Nations will also be judged based on how they care for poor, the stranger, and marginalized, according to Matthew.

Every individual is responsible for making sound choices that can help him/her become contributing members of society. However, once sin enters humanity and its structures and systems, it brings forth greed, covetousness, oppression, and abuse of power. Therefore, many among the poor and marginalized “have been robbed of the ability to make choices for themselves” (The Poverty & Justice Bible, commentary, pg. 3).

We live in a democratic society in which free speech empowers us to be a prophetic voice to those in authority and “speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8, 9). Let our prayer be like that of the Psalmist in Psalm 72 where our government officials may “judge all people with righteousness, defend the cause of the poor, give deliverance to the needy, crush the oppressor, and has pity on the weak and the needy.”

BISHOP JOSE GARCIA is the church relations director at Bread for the World. He is a bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy, a worldwide Pentecostal denomination with thousands of churches.

Women's History Month: 'Poverty Is Not A Character Failing'

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By Jennifer Gonzalez

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms are celebrating the ingenuity, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Among Barbara Ehrenreich's notable books is the bestseller “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” Working as an undercover journalist, Ehrenreich took on various jobs as a low-wage worker in order to investigate how non-skilled workers make ends meet in the United States.

Today, low wages continue to keep many women in a cycle of poverty. Women’s equality, or the lack thereof, is the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger.  For instance, women now earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men, up from 77 cents in 2012. 

The gender wage gap is very slowly eroding, but there is much more work to be done. Women are also at a disadvantage when it comes to the types of jobs they hold. “The majority of minimum-wage workers are women, and women hold 76 percent of the 10 low-wage jobs that employ the most people,” the report points out.

In fact, poverty would be reduced by half for families with a working woman if we closed the gender wage gap.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

 

 

 

New Book by Bread Leader Shows What’s Possible for Changing the World

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By Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy

Social justice-minded advocates who are looking for inspiration will find it in a new book—Possible:  A Blueprint for Changing the World. Its author is Stephan Bauman, president of World Relief, an international relief and development partner of Bread for the World.

Bauman, who is also on Bread’s board of directors, poured his vast personal and professional experience rebuilding marginalized communities at home and abroad into this powerful text. Bauman wrote Possible to be hopeful and helpful for anyone engaged in making the world a better place.

And hope-filled and helpful it is. “Possible is a personal call to reconsider what it means to sustainably impact our neighborhoods, villages and cities. It’s for anyone who dares to believe change is possible, from artists to engineers to storytellers and students to moms and musicians,” Bauman says. 

The core message of Possible should ring true for the hundreds of thousands of Bread advocates and leaders who have been organizing their churches to write letters to Congress, praying to end hunger, drafting op-ed pieces for local papers, and keeping our nation’s decision makers accountable to ending hunger and poverty.

One of my favorite chapters in the book is titled “The Making of Heroes.” In it, Bauman talks about how ordinary people with a willingness to listen to others, with simple humility, authenticity, and belief in trusted relationships can undergird the transformative actions that actually change the world.  The book also emphasizes the need for asset mapping in all areas of our lives. This enables us to employ the skills and resources we possess in partnership with God, who is already at work in the world.

As the executive director of The Justice Conference (TJC), Bauman is creating a space where partnerships with God can manifest. The social-justice conference, held in Chicago this year, brings together world-class speakers and artists to catalyze emerging works of justice around the world. Thousands of Christian activists will gather at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago June 5 and 6.

Over the last four years, Bread has worked closely with TJC, and this year we will lead the pre-conference advocacy track on global poverty.  Register for The Justice Conference, and join Bread for the pre-conference.  We will have an intensive dialogue on global poverty – exploring what is possible when we partner with God and answer the call to change the world.

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy manages evangelical relations in Bread for the World’s church relations department.

Smarter Sentencing: Get in the Way of Injustice

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Nate, a returning citizen in Ohio, who has been able to overcome the employment barrier, and now works to feed his family. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World

By Eric Mitchell

As Christians, it’s our duty to stop injustice when we see it.

On Wednesday, the results of a federal investigation showed widespread racial bias in the law-enforcement system in Ferguson, Missouri.

I was in Missouri last December, and I listened to the pain and frustration of my brothers and sisters who are confronted with the inequality of racism every day. This inequality leads to hunger and broken communities.

Ferguson is not unique. The federal investigation there makes it clear that we need change in many places. Our criminal justice system is broken. Congress passing the Smarter Sentencing Act would be a critical first step in creating systemic change.

This bipartisan bill would reform U.S. sentencing laws. The Smarter Sentencing Act gives judges the discretion to bypass unnecessary and overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent, low-level drug offenses. Mandatory minimum sentences have contributed to the explosion of our country’s prison population. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.

As people of faith committed to ending hunger, we must be at the forefront of this change. Call 800/826-3688 or email your member of Congress. Tell them it’s time to mend our broken criminal justice system and to create a fairer system to ensure justice for all.

Civil rights leader and Georgia congressman John Lewis often says, “You have to get in the way.” This is our moment to let our nation’s decision makers know that we are speaking up getting in the way of this injustice.

Learn more about the connections between incarceration and hunger in our new fact sheet:  Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations for Bread for the World

 

Women's History Month: The Gospel and the Poor

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By Bread Staff

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Woman’s Day, Bread Blog, Institute Notes, and Bread for the World’s social media platforms will be celebrating the ingenious, fortitude, and spirit of women during the month of March.

Women like Dorothy Day have been at the forefront in the fight to end hunger. Like Bread for the World members, Day grounded her work in prayer and scripture and felt called to care for the most vulnerable in our society.  Day’s example reminds us that women of faith are helpers and advocates and act as God’s hands in this broken world.

Women are also the primary agents the world relies on to fight hunger. From the mother in Mississippi who struggles to work full-time at minimum wage and still feed her children to the subsistence farmer in Kenya who prays she can sell enough of her produce at market to make it through the dry season, women feed and nourish the world. Lessons from anti-hunger programs carried out in the past decade have made it clear:  women’s empowerment is key to ending hunger worldwide.

On March 8, thousand of events will be held throughout the world as part of annual International Women’s Day observances.  The theme of this year’s celebration is “Make it Happen” for greater awareness of women’s equality.

Women’s equality is also the subject of the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger. The report looks at discrimination as a cause of persistent hunger and makes policy and program recommendations in order to empower women both in the United States and around the world. Increasing women’s earning potential by boosting bargaining power, reducing gender inequality in unpaid work, increasing women’s political representation, and eliminating the wage gap between male and female labor directly contributes to ending hunger.

For more information on the integral role women play in ending hunger and poverty, make sure to read When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger and also visit Bread Blog.

 

Black History Month: I Am Reminded

PP7By Brittany Gray

 

I am not into celebrating the lives of my ancestors for just one month out of the year. Rather, I take a moment each and every day to reflect on the lives of my ancestors, on the lives of greatness. Black History Month is not all that exciting for me, but it does serve as a reminder, nevertheless.

During the month of February, I am reminded, especially by others who celebrate the lives of black people, of how educated, beautiful, radiant, talented, driven, brilliant, intelligent, innovative, and legendary my people are. I am reminded that no matter how we are perceived today, that we were once kings, queens, inventors, innovators, educators, leaders, architects, and rulers of great nations, to name a few. I am reminded of how resilient and strong that we have always been and must continue to be.

Having grown up in the rural Mississippi Delta, I am reminded of my sharecropping grandparents who spent many years on a plantation in Leflore County. Many years in which they worked to provide housing and basic necessities for their eldest children. Many years in which they were short-changed daily by their “landlord” and barely made ends meet. It’s similar to the plight of so many residents in the Mississippi Delta, who struggle to provide for their families in 2015. I am reminded of the systemic issue of hunger and poverty that has always been pervasive in the Mississippi Delta due to blacks having little to no access to land or resources. I am reminded of the local, statewide, and federal policies that have allowed these systemic issues to remain commonplace.

I am reminded of great leaders who organized in an effort so that others and I would one day have better lives, opportunities, and a chance to live in a more just society void of systemic issues that plague black communities. I am reminded of Fannie Lou Hamer. I am reminded of June Johnson. I am reminded of Euvester Simpson. I am reminded of Victoria Gray Adams. I am reminded of Annie Devine. I am reminded of Unita Blackwell. I am reminded of Sam Block. I am reminded of Willie B. Peacock. I am reminded of Jesse Harris. I am reminded of Silas McGhee. I am reminded of Hollis Watkins.

In 2015, as we fight to prove that “black lives matter,” I am reminded of why I have chosen what I dare not call a career, but a way of life. I am reminded that the battles that my ancestors fought have not been won yet. The torch has been passed on. The fight must continue.

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” –Assata Shakur, an African-American activist (b. 1947)

Brittany Gray is a regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Photo: Brittany Gray at a Moral Movement Rally in Jackson, Miss. Brittany Gray/Bread for the World.

 

 

 

From Selma to Now: The Unfinished Agenda of a Pan-African Anti-Poverty Movement

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Demonstrators participate in the 1968 Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. Warren K. Leffler/U.S. News & World Report via Wikimedia Commons.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

In 1968, the world mourned the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  His journey as a leader in the civil rights movement ended when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Most people are familiar with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the early and major events in the movement. The recent film “Selma” has given further visibility to the legacy of Bloody Sunday, another of the movement’s seminal events, and the fight that ended in the Voting Rights Act.  King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, concerning his challenge to Christian leaders to act now and not later, has taken its proper place in the memories of many.  

Less is said about King’s final work concerning his position against the Vietnam War and an anti-poverty agenda spelled out in his work From Chaos to Community.  This agenda was addressed when King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy worked with the civil rights community to erect Resurrection City at the same location as the March on Washington. This initiative would be known as the Poor People’s Campaign and had thousands of participants stay in tents on the National Mall in 1968.  The rains were heavy that year. Some in the government proved rigid and set in the old ways. Others objected on the basis of fear. Participants faced many challenges but continued to move forward.

Since 1968, there have been other boycotts advocating for economic empowerment and other socio-political movements led by and supported by African-American churches and organizations as well as other institutions. There have also been aspects of a pan-African anti-poverty faith agenda as well. Despite all of this, the specific tenets of King’s proposal of how to end poverty, such as a guaranteed income for all, still have not been systematically addressed.

Bread for the World is convinced we can help to end hunger by 2030 through praying, acting, and giving, but there is much work ahead of us to get this done. As recently as this month, African-American church leaders said they need to seek ways to deepen their commitment to a pan-African anti-poverty agenda of faith. Our country’s history is tied closely to Africa, and now, generations later, Africa is on the rise again with its emerging economies.  

Bread will soon further outline its proposal for work with African-American church leaders and partners. We look forward to any input you might like to give in this regard.  Please send your comments to bread@bread.org or (202) 639-9400, toll-free: (800) 822-7323.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is the associate for national African-American church engagement at Bread for the World.

Participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring on Super Bowl Sunday

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Wikimedia Commons.

By Stephen H. Padre

"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat" is a prayer that began a movement to take action against hunger on a day when Americans come together around football, fun, and food.
 
The Souper Bowl of Caring takes place every year on the day of the Super Bowl—Feb. 1 this year. The idea is simple: Led by youth, your congregation or community collects money and/or canned goods before or on Super Bowl Sunday. You report your results at tacklehunger.org, where national results are compiled and reported. You then donate 100 percent of your collection to an organization of your choice that is fighting hunger.
 
Make participation in this national event fun in your congregation. Some congregations serve a soup lunch after worship services. Use football images and sports metaphors to build excitement. Send youth out to collect money and canned goods from homes in the neighborhood.
 
The event is locally driven—you choose where your collection goes—but why not make broader connections in your participation? Pass on in-kind donations to a local organization, and give part or all of your monetary donations to an organization that works nationally or internationally, such as Bread for the World or your denomination’s hunger program. Groups across the country have donated to Bread in the past.
 
Start planning for your participation now. Promotional materials that you can use and adapt are available at www.souperbowl.org, where you can find information about other events around the Souper Bowl, including a service blitz.

Stephen H. Padre is the managing editor at Bread for the World.

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