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Bread for the World is inviting people across the United States to commit themselves to prayer — and one day of fasting every month — to reinforce our efforts to convince our members of Congress to protect poverty-focused programs.
We are calling on the leaders of religious bodies and other organizations to fast with us and your communities to participate.
These are unsettled times in our nation. Bread is especially alarmed that President Donald J. Trump and Congress are pushing for deep cuts to programs that are vital to hungry people, especially those struggling with poverty.
The health care plan that Trump supports would increase hunger and other suffering among tens of millions of people. The president’s budget blueprint for fiscal year 2018 proposes cuts to many programs that help people in poverty in this country and especially deep cuts to foreign assistance — even as four countries in Africa and the Middle East are falling into famine.
“The unprecedented spending cuts President Trump is proposing to the State Department and other international programs would roll back the tremendous progress we have made against hunger and poverty,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “This budget could not be more shortsighted. Less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid. Trump is proposing these cuts as 20 million people stand on the verge of or are in the midst of famine in Africa.”
We expect more proposals to cut anti-poverty programs over the course of the year to pay for the stated priorities of the president and many members of Congress. Trump still wants to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, and even though he has repeatedly said that Mexico will pay for it, the money will mostly likely come from the federal government — at least initially.
Trump’s budget proposes a 31 percent cut to the State Department and USAID, which fund many of the United States’ foreign aid and development assistance programs. It would also eliminate the McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which supports nutrition and education in poor countries, and the Africa Development Fund. In 2015, 2.9 million children benefited from the McGovern-Dole program.
We will begin a three-day fast on Sunday, May 21. We will continue by fasting for one day a month — the 21st of each month — through the close of the 115th Congress at the end of 2018. We fast on the 21st of the month because that is the day when 90 percent of SNAP benefits run out for families.
Make it your own. We hope that many faith communities and other organizations will promote the fast. Different organizations are welcome to promote it among their communities in their own ways. Bread for the World will serve as a facilitation hub for creating resources and sharing ideas and happenings.
You are the face of the fast! In addition, several leaders have already committed themselves to the fast, including David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Jim Wallis, convener of Sojourners; Lawrence Reddick, presiding bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to End Hunger; Barbara Williams Skinner; Carlos Malavé, executive director of Christian Churches Together; Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief (USA); Bishop Richard Pates, Roman Catholic Diocese of Des Moines, and others. We expect many other leaders at the national and community levels to step forward to be the face of the fast as well.
We are calling for prayer, fasting, and advocacy. Fasting is an effort to clear our bodies, our hearts, and our minds from the distractions around us so that we may draw closer to God. Fasting from food is one option that many will choose. But we invite people to take on the discipline of self-denial, which will help them rely more fully on God. Some may fast from technology, social media, or television.
These days of fasting should also be days of advocacy to oppose cuts to public programs that help hungry people living in poverty. Individuals or congregations who participate in the fast could also write letters to Congress or make financial offerings to support advocacy on days of fasting. Support for a candidate for public office can also be a form of advocacy.
We invite people to wear burlap to represent the sackcloth worn by the Jewish people in their time of lamentation. It might be a strip around the wrist. Pastors might wear a stole made of burlap on Sunday morning.
How do I join? Call 800/822-7323 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will welcome you.
Photo: Singers performing during the 2017 Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD). Photo courtesy of EAD.
“[W]e must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives, and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. April 4, 1967
By Daulton DePatis
Nearly 1,000 Christians came together last month for the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days to strengthen the Christian voice and mobilize people for advocacy on various U.S. domestic and international policy issues.
The weekend-long event in late April encompassed worship, learning, witnessing, and theological reflection. The theme of the event, “Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism, and Militarism,” was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon at the historic Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967.
As Dr. King emphatically proclaimed the realities race relations, greed, and military belligerence in the 1960s, we continue to struggle with the same issues today.
One plenary presentation, “Intersection Between Racism, Materialism, and Militarism,” focused on the current political climate as it related to the event’s theme. During the presentation, Ellen Nissenbaum, senior vice president of government affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, offered an overview of current U.S. domestic policy issues. Ellen spoke about several policies and programs that are at risk of reform or being cut from the federal budget including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and social safety-net programs.
During the presentation, Eric Mitchell, Bread for the World’s director of government relations, discussed the danger of proposed cuts to the foreign affairs budget.
“In that speech, when [Dr. King] called racism, materialism, and militarism the giant triplets... those same giant triplets oftentimes serve as fuel for policies that have given our country and others power over those who are living in poverty, those who are facing hunger—not only in this country, but for millions of people thousands of miles away,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell spoke about the economic, military, and security interests that drive U.S. policy decisions at the expense of foreign aid and development assistance. Highlighting that policy surrounding foreign assistance should be based on “the common good,” Mitchell stated that sometimes well-intentioned policies turn out to be harmful for the people for which they are intended.
He laid out three advocacy priorities for the group to focus on as they speak with their members of Congress about foreign affairs issues: support for robust foreign assistance funding, assistance for refugees and restoration of resettlement in the United States, and progress on addressing climate change.
The rest of the weekend event was filled with workshops, presentations, and advocacy training sessions. The group of nearly 1,000 attendees also participated in a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, where they met with their members of Congress and participated in a prayer vigil and time of public witness.
Daulton DePatis is a former church relations intern at Bread for the World.
“[W]e must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. "
By Hazel Cherry
Women are often marginalized in biblical narratives — sometimes considered disposable, according to the customs of their communities.
Luke, however, recognizes the women who were present at the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Mary Magdalene, Joana, and Mary the mother of Jesus are all named, but there were also many women and girls whom Luke does not name. They came to the burial site of Jesus to provide care of his body, only to discover it gone. Their astonishing discovery leaves me pondering the terror and shock they must have felt—and its relevance to missing black and brown girls today.
The plight of missing black and brown girls in Washington, D.C., has recently captured the attention of many people through social media. Like the women in the biblical narrative, these girls, too, have been marginalized and are considered disposable by society. I am left pondering the terror and shock the mothers of these girls must have felt upon discovering their daughters were missing.
Both the biblical narrative and this current situation raises the question of what it could mean to bring to the public center the voices and experiences of marginalized women and girls? Should there not be righteous anger and lament? Do we not share the frustration of their mothers about the lack of response by the Metropolitan Police Department and the media’s failure to bring their missing status to the awareness of the public? Are their faces not worthy to appear in Amber Alerts? Are they not worthy of being found?
Our society often decenters the lives of black and brown girls, especially if they are poor and have experienced hunger. The media rarely portrays them as precious or valuable. And despite the vibrant #BlackGirlMagic hashtag — which explores and celebrates black girls and women — they’re still considered disposable to mainstream society.
However, the biblical narrative of resurrection gives me hope. We need to commit to centering the lives of black and brown girls. This includes calling upon public policy leaders and faith leaders to take more just care for those lives. This is our work, because this was Jesus’s work. We are called to act and to bring forth a moral revival. One that centers the lives of women and girls. One that forces us to acknowledge that Jesus died for black and brown girls, too.
Hazel Cherry is a church administrator at Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The House has passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) — legislation that replaces the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. The bill now goes to the Senate. Bread for the World is urging the Senate to reject the AHCA.
Approximately 68 million Americans receive health insurance through the Medicaid program. The AHCA will take away health insurance from millions of Americans, including 14 million on Medicaid.
“Protecting Medicaid is a priority for the faith community,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “The ‘fixes’ made to the AHCA do nothing to change the fact that millions of low-income Americans will lose their health coverage.”
Beckmann added: “Medical bills often drive families, especially those who struggle to make ends meet, deeper into hunger and poverty. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this bill.”
At least 24 million people would lose their health care coverage under the AHCA. The AHCA would cap state Medicaid funding and eliminate the Medicaid expansion started under the ACA. States would also receive less money to cover children, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled, resulting in the rationing of health care.
On May 3, Congress passed a $1.1 trillion bipartisan omnibus spending bill struck by House and Senate negotiators. The bill will fund the government through the end of the 2017 fiscal year. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
The bill provides more than $1 billion for famine relief in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The spending bill also protects domestic and international poverty-focused programs from budget cuts proposed by Trump.
Bread pushed Congress hard to ensure that funding for famine relief was in the spending bill. In fact, Faustine Wabwire, a senior foreign assistance policy adviser at the Bread for the World Institute, testified before Congress last month on the need for robust foreign aid to help countries with humanitarian crises and other emergencies.
Plan now to join hundreds of Bread for the World members from across the country for our annual Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 13. The day will begin with a morning briefing (including breakfast!) at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.
Afterward you will accompany others from your state for scheduled visits with senators and representatives. The day concludes with a reception on Capitol Hill and an inspiring closing worship service.
Visit bread.org/lobbyday to learn more and to register for the event. You’ll also find information about “Virtual Lobby Day” and opportunities for in-district meetings with your members of Congress.
His talk entitled, “Do the Thing in Front of You,” is focused on informing people that there is a hunger problem in the world. Hall is a leading advocate for global hunger relief programs and improving human rights.
You can download or order a printed copy of the Offering of Letters handbook and DVD at www.bread.org/ol or call 800/822-7323.
You may also order free bulletin inserts with sample letter in any quantity. The bulletin insert is available in Spanish and English.
The first episode of The Hunger Reports features environmentalist Bill McKibben in a new video talking about the connections between climate change and hunger. The three-part The Hunger Reports series, based on the annual Hunger Report published by Bread for the World Institute, will consist of a video, graphics, and new stories.
The first episode focuses on the link between climate change and hunger. The second focuses on the refugee crisis and hunger, and the third on bridging the gap between humanitarian and development assistance. Make sure to follow The Hunger Reports series on Facebook and Twitter.
Here are some blog stories that appeared on Bread Blog in April that you may have missed or you may want to read again. Jordan Kreikemeier, a government relations intern at Bread, recently wrote two blog posts about her experience taking the SNAP Challenge.
Read about why Rick Steves, a great friend of Bread for the World, decided to use his online shop as a catalyst for a small fundraiser for Bread. And faith leaders exhibited their passion for prayer and public witness on Capitol Hill as chronicled by Daulton DePatis, an intern in Bread’s church relations department.
Photo: Mary Utsewa admires stalks of corn that eclipsed her in height. Thanks to a USAID donation, she recently harvested 1,000 kilograms to consume and sell. AUN-API
By Richard Zack Taylor
Mary Utsewa gripped an ear of maize so large she could barely get her hand around it. Standing among bright green cornstalks swaying high above her head, she smiled and considered her good fortune. A farmer from Sukur district in northeast Nigeria, Utsewa was driven from her fields in 2013 and hadn’t grown a kernel since. Today she is a farmer again.
Utsewa, 38, and her family were among 6,000 farming households displaced by the Boko Haram terrorist organization to receive seeds and farming implements donated by USAID to help smallholder farmers return to their fields after suffering years as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Utsewa’s family was among tens of thousands who were unable to produce for themselves and had no choice but to rely on humanitarian aid. Driven from the town of Fufore to the town of Magadali near the Nigeria-Cameroon border, Utsewa and her family faced the typical odyssey of the displaced over the course of three years. They found refuge with a family in a host community, became displaced again when their new community came under fire, and ended up in one of the dreaded IDP camps, where scores of people lived together in a dangerous, assistance-dependent environment.
Late in 2015, the family landed in Magadali. When Utsewa received the seeds from USAID in July 2016, she was allowed to plant and tend them after she was allotted a parcel of land from host community elders.
“No words can express my joy for this harvest,” Utsewa said in December. “From the community that lent me the land to grow this crop to the donation of the seed, I can’t believe it.”
With the harvest complete and 10 100-kilogram sacks full of high-quality maize, Utsewa and her family now have ready access to cash from local markets and other food staples, and more importantly, some hope for the future.
Seeds — including maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut and cowpea — were distributed to people who were, in many cases, forced from their homes or had their land and farming equipment destroyed by the festering Islamic insurrection in the region.
Two months after the planting, agronomists with USAID followed up with beneficiaries, and called on traditional leaders known as maiunguwas, village chiefs, religious leaders and officials of the U.S.-supported Adamawa Peace Initiative of the American University of Nigeria. What they found was encouraging.
“My family ran from Boko Haram with just the shirts on our backs,” said Garba Abdullahi, a farmer from Fufore. “We left everything, but these seeds have helped me start my life again.”
USAID partners, including state and local government agencies, helped ensure distribution occurred ahead of this year’s planting season.
“We gave people farmland and give them instructions on how to use the seeds, and insist they not take them to market to sell,” said Malam Aminu Jauro, a community leader and local official in Fufore. “Providing the farmers food assistance as well ensured the majority of the seeds were planted.”
“Our evaluation showed that most of the beneficiary farmers were very satisfied with their crops,” said USAID partner agronomist Emmanuel Sangodele, who led the distribution. “Nearly four out of five farmers reported the quality of their crops was good, and the harvest this year alleviated their suffering.”
Most of the seeds went to the IDPs, but a substantial portion went to host families to help ease the economic and social strain on communities that accommodated thousands of displaced families, underscoring the importance of restoring both food and economic security to this troubled corner of Africa’s most populous nation.
Such small successes like this distribution program only begin to address the humanitarian crisis precipitated by the scorched earth tactics of the Boko Haram insurgency. The outfit is beaten but not broken and continues to wreak devastation as they gradually retreat deep into the jungle.
Through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Office of Food for Peace, USAID has also provided more than $301 million in humanitarian assistance to people living in the Lake Chad Basin since 2016, working with U.N. agencies and other partners.
In all, the 160 metric tons of seed donated to 6,000 households helped improve the region’s food supply, jump-start the stagnating economy and restore a sense of normalcy to battered communities after years on the brink of famine.
In 2017, USAID is continuing to transition from humanitarian relief to development assistance, and through Feed the Future — the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative — the Agency plans to continue its support for Nigerian agriculture, ahead of the next growing season.
As for Utsewa, the bounty of her harvest will both help her restore the life her family knew before the conflict and express gratitude toward her gracious hosts. “To me, it was a bumper crop,” she said.
This story first appeared on the USAID website.
The House has passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – legislation that replaces the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. At least 24 million people will lose their health care coverage under the AHCA, including 14 million people on Medicaid. The AHCA now must go through the Senate – and we have the power to stop it. Call (800/826-3688) your senators and tell them to reject the AHCA.
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