Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

162 posts categorized "Social Justice"

Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference

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Rev Luis Cortés, president and founder of Esperanza, speaking at Bread for the World's National Gathering last month. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

By Theresa Martin

More than 3.5 million unauthorized immigrants in America live below the poverty line. Many of them flee hunger in their home countries only to arrive in the United States and find themselves struggling to feed themselves and their families yet again. In a country where 33 million tons of food is wasted each year, and roughly 75 percent of our farm workers are migrants, how is it that so many immigrants go hungry? “For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was a stranger and you welcomed me”—have we forgotten Jesus’ words?

I recently had the opportunity, along with immigration advocates from across the country, to attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference, hosted by Esperanza, an organization that works to support Latino communities in the United States. Both Democratic and Republican leaders spoke to the topic of immigration reform, and attendees had the opportunity to lobby members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Continue reading "Hope for Immigration Reform: The National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference" »

Hear Rev. Dr. James Forbes Speak Near You

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Rev. Dr. James Forbes speaking at Bread for the World's 2013 National Gathering (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

When the Rev. Dr. James Forbes was a child, his family’s Raleigh, N.C., dinner table was a place not only where meals were shared, but where accomplishments were celebrated and compassion encouraged. After saying grace, the family members ate and talked about how they could best extend kindness and love to each other and the members of their community. “If we had been faithful in caring and sharing then we had the sense that justice and peace had a chance in the world,” Rev. Forbes, senior minister emeritus of the Riverside Church in New York City and president of the Healing of the Nations Foundation, said in a recent sermon.

During Bread for the World’s 2013 National Gathering, “A Place at the Table,” Rev. Forbes offered words to fortify advocates working to ensure that all families can gather around dinner tables filled with compassion, love, and nutritious food. Now, Rev. Forbes, who is often called "the preacher’s preacher," is traveling the country, conveying God’s message that we can end hunger.

In the coming months, he will be preaching in churches across the nation and leading homiletics workshops for ministers, pastors, and others who also preach to end hunger. Click here to see if Rev. Forbes is coming to a church near you and to obtain registration information.

Justice Is Not Just Extra Credit for Poet Micah Bournes

MicahBournes_038_resizeBy Sarah Miller

While attending the Justice Conference in Philadelphia several weeks ago, I had the honor of sitting down with spoken word artist and creative writer Micah Bournes.

Micah was a featured artist at the event, which is one of the largest international biblical and social justice conferences in the world. For those unfamiliar with spoken word, Micah describes it as poetry that is "written to be performed rather than read on a page.”

Much of the Long Beach, Calif., artist's work focuses on social justice, either directly or indirectly. Micah says he didn’t set out to be an advocate for justice or to necessarily inspire others to be justice-minded—a lot of his writing has been “accidentally justice-focused,” he says. “It’s just really paying attention and listening to people.”

Micah was first exposed to spoken word during the summer before his junior year of college. A friend invited him to an open mic in L.A. and he decided to participate. He had no idea how much that night, and the unique form of expression, would impact his life.

At the open mic Micah saw a bunch of people “spilling their hearts, and it was amazing to [me] that people would be so vulnerable with a group of strangers and yet it didn’t feel awkward—I saw people talking about their deepest spiritual wounds.” He recognized that “here is an art form… or platform, where people are already being open and inviting spiritual conversations.” He saw it as an opportunity to take what many saw as a time to reflect on sorrow in their lives and use it instead to “speak some hope and some truth and some life into [it]."

I first heard Micah’s testimony on YouTube; he talked about his modest upbringing and the important role faith played in his life from an early age. “My mom had a very simple plan for teaching us the truth of God and that was, ‘Read the Bible, just read it.’” Micah’s immersion in the Word has greatly influenced his faith and his work. 

“[Jesus] was a brilliant poet," Micah says. "He used art to communicate truth… When Jesus is revealing himself, he could have just said, ‘I am the second person in the Trinity; God in the flesh’. No, he said, ‘I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Door. I am the Light’. These are metaphors. He was using poetic language to reveal who he was to us. I see that in scripture. That influences me.”

Continue reading "Justice Is Not Just Extra Credit for Poet Micah Bournes" »

Meaningful Conversations About Justice

Bread staff at the 2013 Justice Conference: (l-r) Michael Smith, Krisanne Vaillancourt-Murphy, Sarah Miller, and Kyle Dechant. (Robin Stephenson)

By Sarah Miller

Several weeks have passed since I traveled to Philadelphia for the 2013 Justice Conference, but my mind is still filled with thoughts about the event. This year, I joined the team representing Bread for the World at this two-day event that aims to "promote dialogue around justice-related issues such as human trafficking, slavery, poverty, HIV/AIDS, and human rights." Six Bread staff members, two Bread advocates, and I heard prominent speakers from all over the world, talked to representatives from some of the hundreds of humanitarian organizations in attendance, participated in workshops, and engaged in deep conversations about justice.

I have several friends who attended the biblical and social justice conference last year and raved about the experience. I knew the conference would have an effect on me, but I greatly underestimated its power.

More than 6,000 people gathered in Philadelphia’s downtown convention center, all of them with the same desire—to have meaningful conversations about justice. Flocks of people came by Bread’s exhibition booth to hear about our mission to end hunger and poverty through advocacy. We collected 160 signatures on our petition to the president, which asks President Obama to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. 

We also offered conference-goers an opportunity to send powerful anti-hunger messages to members of Congress. We asked people to pose for photos while holding a whiteboard that read: “I want our leaders to make ending hunger a national priority because….” Each person wrote down their thoughts on the importance of ending hunger, along with their name and zip code. After we snapped each person's photo, we tweeted the picture to their U.S. representative. In the end, roughly 40 people used this unique method to contact their representative and engage in dialogue around the issue of hunger.

Bread also held a workshop, "Transformational Advocacy: A Faithful Witness to the Reign of God," in partnership with Asbury Seminary and Eastern University. The session focused on the process of being changed through advocacy actions and introduced attendees to the website evangelicaladvocacy.org.

We made many new contacts and strengthened existing relationships. We heard powerful, visionary speakers asking attendees to listen to the call of God and make meaningful changes in their communities and around the world. It was truly a time of giving and receiving for all involved.

Sarah Miller is a church relations intern at Bread for the World.

All slideshow photos taken by the Bread for the World Justice Conference team.

Ending Poverty and Realizing the Dream

By Marsha Casey

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Mlk_wiki_commonsBlack History Month honors those who have paved the way for the victories and successes of African-Americans, ensuring each generation has a brighter future than the last. What started, thanks to historian Carter G. Woodson, in 1926 as a weeklong observance is now a month that celebrates of the accomplishments of African-Americans. I often wonder where our country would be today had it not been for the tireless efforts of Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the countless others whose names never made it into the history books.  

Though we’ve come a long way with respect to equality among all Americans, poverty is still an injustice that many face. During his second inaugural address on Jan. 21, President Barack Obama said, “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal—not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

This statement's power was only heightened by the fact that it was delivered by the first African-American president on a day observing the birth of a man who stood for civil rights, justice, and equality—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

In order to see Dr. King’s dream realized, and show respect to those African-Americans who have sacrificed and advocated so that all people could have the rights they are entitled to, it is imperative that we work to put an end to poverty. As Black History month comes to a close, let's redouble our efforts to achieve Dr. King's vision of a "beloved community," in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth. We must continue urging our lawmakers to set a goal to end hunger and reduce the federal deficit responsibly, so as not to further burden those who didn’t create it.

Marsha Casey is a media relations intern at Bread for the World. She is a student at Montgomery College Takoma Park, Silver Spring Campus.

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. leaning on a lectern (1964). From the United States Library of Congress's prints and photographs division, through Wikimedia Commons.

A Day, and a Year, of Reflection

Martin-Luther-King-1964-leaning-on-a-lectern_wikimedia-commonsBy Bishop Don diXon Williams

2013 will be a year of reflection on a number of significant events in our nation’s history.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was arrested and wrote his seminal work “Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

Fifty years ago, Eugene “Bull” Connor used fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators prompting people to have a change of heart about civil rights because of the brutality that was seen on TV.

Fifty years ago, Medgar Evers, whose  wife will give the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, was murdered just outside his home.

Fifty years ago, 250,000 people were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

Fifty years ago, four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins) were killed when a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

This year not only marks the 50 year anniversary of all of those events, but the 150th anniversary of one of the most significant events in this country's history. On Jan. 1, 1863 , another soon-to-be-assassinated president signed the Emancipation Proclamation, ending slavery. Each year, in thousands of African-American churches across the nation, we still celebrate “Watch Meeting Night” as a way to commemorate that day.

On that day in 1863, one old lady said, upon hearing the news, said “Mr. Lincoln signed the papers, but it was God that set us free.” Given the state of our nation and world 150 years later, the question becomes, free to do what?

Despite the incredible strides African-Americans have made, we continue to suffer disproportionately from hunger, poverty, unemployment, and income and education disparities. When compared with the U.S. population as a whole, we are more likely to be poor and more likely to go hungry. According to U.S. Census bureau figures, more than one in four African-Americans  lived in poverty in 2010. And one in four African-American households struggled to put food on the table.

Today, we celebrate not only the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but the second inauguration of the President Barack Obama. It is a time to rejoice, but also a time to pray for the president, and also ask him to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger. Perhaps, in another 50 years, when we look back on 2013 we'll remember it as the year that marked the beginning of the end of hunger.

Don-williams

Bishop Don DiXon Williams is racial/ethnic outreach associate at Bread for the World and sits on the board of bishops of the United Church of Jesus Christ, Baltimore, Md.

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. leaning on a lectern (1964). From the United States Library of Congress's prints and photographs division, through Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Human Rights Day

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Photo: Friends who are part of the jjajja (grandmother) group at St. Francis Healthcare Services in Jinja, Uganda, laugh over their lunch on Saturday, May 21, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

It is the most basic of all human rights and over 100 countries have some level of reference to this right in their constitution. And yet over 900 million people live in perpetual hunger. 'Give us today the food we need' is the first material petition in the Lord’s Prayer. And the fact that it flows from the lofty statements about God’s transcendence is a clear commitment of a God who is concerned about our most basic needs.

—Rev. Joel Edwards, international director of Micah Challenge, in the 2013 Hunger Report

Today is Human Rights Day, an annual celebration of human rights and an opportunity to advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere. On Dec. 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—Human Rights Day has been observed every year, on Dec. 10, ever since.

This year, the spotlight is on "the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making," according to the UN.

If you're a hunger advocate, you can use your voice today to remind everyone—your friends, family, co-workers, and elected officials—that the right to food is a basic, fundamental human right. A few suggestions: 

  • Inform others about poverty-focused foreign assistance, which accounts for just 0.6 percent of the federal budget, but feeds millions of people--and saves millions of lives--around the world each year. 
  • Spread the good news about the extraordinary progress has occurred in countries around the world in reducing rates of hunger and poverty.

Write Your Own Letter to the Editor

'These Hands' photo (c) 2008, InnocentEyez - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9).

Congress is on the verge of making budget decisions that will determine our country’s ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. With crucial programs that prevent hunger at risk, the Christian call to act on behalf of the most vulnerable has never been more critical. How we treat our neighbors is a concrete expression of how we love God.

A bipartisan group of senators, known in Washington as the “Gang of Eight,” met last week to set the framework for a comprehensive deficit reduction package. They will continue talks this month, as they work to come up with a budget plan that balances cuts and revenues.

Drastic cuts without increased revenue will jeopardize the safety net that has protected millions of Americans during this recession. Foreign assistance programs that save lives and provide long-term anti-hunger solutions are also in danger, even though they comprise less than one percent of the federal budget.  

You can use your voice to shape the outcome in real ways. Writing a letter to the editor is a simple way to express your beliefs and encourage public discussion of these issues. Your members of Congress read this stuff! They care what you have to say—especially around election time!

Getting a letter published is a good way to let Congress know that you expect to see a moral budget that prioritizes the eradication of hunger and poverty. Even if your congressional representatives aren't members of the Gang of Eight, they still have a role to play. They can influence key negotiations and urge congressional leaders to do the right thing, but they need public outcry to spur them to action. 

Below is a sample letter to the editor. The template gives a general idea of what a good letter to the editor should look like, but be creative, and personalize your letter as you see fit. If you want to enhance your message with statistics on hunger and poverty, feel free to cite Bread's fact sheets on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and faithful tax policy or our 2012 Offering of Letters website.

For additional tips on composing a letter, see Bread's "How to Write A Letter to the Editor" guidelines.

Hungry and poor people do not have lobbyists working to protect the programs they depend on, but you can use your voice to advocate on their behalf.

Continue reading "Write Your Own Letter to the Editor" »

Does Investing in Women and Girls Mean Leaving Boys Behind?

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Photo: Schoolchildren in Malawi. (Racine Tucker-Hamilton/Bread for the World)

By Racine Tucker-Hamilton

As a woman who is the mother of two sons, I’m often torn between my strong belief in empowering women and girls and raising boys. My personal conflict was very evident last week while attending the Social Good Summit (SGS).

Many of the sessions focused specifically on females: "Women Editors Take on the Intersection of Print, Digital and Social Good," "Connecting Girls Around the World," and "Women, Social Media and an End to Poverty.

As I was sitting through these sessions I kept thinking, where are boys and men in these conversations? Then finally, America Ferrera, an actress, producer, and activist, brought it up. She and fellow actress Alexis Bledel had recently returned from a trip to Honduras where they learned how women and girls are improving nutrition and fighting poverty in developing countries. The trip was organized by the ONE campaign and captured in this video.

Ferrera was a guest on the SGS panel "Women, Social Media and an End to Poverty." She told the audience that, in her experience, investing in women and girls doesn’t mean leaving boys behind.

“From what we saw [in Latin America], boys are raised by their mothers and the mothers will see that those boys have education and a different outlook toward women’s roles in society,” said Ferrera.

Her comments reminded me of my visit to a southern Malawi village last year, where I saw men playing an important role in improving nutrition for women and children. Kennedy Mbereko is one of those men. He’s well known in the Jombo village, where he serves as a member of a care group for a Catholic Relief Services project called Wellness and Agriculture for Life Advancement (WALA). Kennedy visits the homes of malnourished children and then documents their progress and growth.

While his notes and journals are central to his job, his presence alone makes a difference in a community where nutrition may be viewed as a ‘women’s-only issue.’ Mbereko is helping to break down barriers and engage other men in the area—including the village leader—around the issue of malnutrition.  

During Ferrera's panel discussion at the SGS, she also told the audience that we need more men to embrace and support the issues of improving nutrition and ending poverty in their communities.

“We need enlightened men to help change the minds of men who may not see the important role that women play in poverty eradication.”

There’s no question that women and girls must be at the table when determining the best ways to combat malnutrition and poverty, but we have to remember to save a seat for boys and men.

Racine Tucker-Hamilton is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

Jesus' Way: September's Bread for the Preacher

PastorBy Carter Echols

Did you know that each month, the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors?  Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you're writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you.

In the month of September, the lectionary reminds us of core values and behaviors for followers of Jesus: pursuing God's will, integrating our inner and outer lives, refusing to show partiality based on money, and supporting other disciples. At the same time, the church program year begins again, schools start, and an election season demands attention.

In the midst of this busy-ness and the cacophony of campaign ads, how do we stay centered in Jesus' life-giving way? This month's lectionary commentators help us see the biblical texts and our own circumstances through a Godly lens.

Explore reflections on social hypocrisy, justice for the poor, discipleship, vindication, and power in this month’s readings on the website, where you can also sign-up to have the resource emailed to you each month.

Carter

 

Carter Echols is congregational engagement associate at Bread for the World.

 

Photo: Senior Pastor Judith VanOsdol leads the noon church service at El Milagro (The Miracle) Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN.  (Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl)

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