Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

World Prayers for March 8-14: Myanmar and Thailand

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Ginger. imke.stahlmann/Creative Commons

This is a 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 more, act more, and give more. In this blog series, we will provide a prayer for a different group of countries each week and their efforts to end hunger.

This prayer series will follow 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 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 March 8-14: Myanmar and Thailand

Good and gracious God, we thank you for the gifts of the peoples of Myanmar and Thailand to the world—for foods we enjoy, for hospitality, and for gentle spirits. We pray for the people of these countries and the many hardships they have endured, including oppressive and unstable governments, natural disaster, and poverty. Comfort and strengthen them as they work to overcome these hardships and rebuild their lives after crises. Give those who serve in their governments compassion for all people and a desire to help all find opportunity and abundance. We especially lift up refugees who live in these countries as well as children who are exploited in the sex trade. And for those who are hungry in these places, we pray that they would have enough to eat. Strengthen governments, nonprofit organizations, churches, and families that are working hard to ensure that all in Myanmar and Thailand are fed and have their daily needs met. All these things we ask in the name of Jesus our savior. Amen.

Percentage of the population of these countries living below the national poverty line (2014 figures):

Myanmar: Not available
Thailand: 13.2

Source: World Bank World Development Indicators as found in the 2015 Hunger Report.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:54-55

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

After arresting Jesus, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. (Luke 22:54-55)

Luke struggled, but told the truth when Judas kissed Jesus. He does the same now when the disciples abandon Jesus. He knows they fled when Jesus was led away, and they’re pointedly absent from the scenes that follow. But he doesn’t draw attention to their flight.

The most notable detail in this passage is that Peter was following “at a distance.” All four Gospels note this. Jesus, on the other hand, is never described as distancing himself from anyone. Ever.

In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, there is a point when “many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked if they wanted to leave too. It was Peter who stepped up and said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

But now it’s Peter who, having abandoned Jesus at the arrest, follows only “at a distance.”

Perhaps my relationship with the Lord is a back-and forth thing too, sometimes close, sometimes at a distance, or perhaps I keep part of my life at a distance.

A helpful reflection might be to picture Jesus quietly asking me: “Do you also want to leave?” An honest conversation about that might produce some surprising results.

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

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:52-53

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

And Jesus said to the chief priests and Temple guards and elders who had come for him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the Temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:52-53)

The first injury to Jesus is to his feelings. “Have you come out as against a robber?” (The Greek word used here meant armed thugs who preyed upon travelers or made trouble in the cities.)

Jesus didn’t come to hurt anyone. He came to heal. And he is hurt when these people he loved came at him with weapons: “Day after day I was with you . . .”

This is a bad time for Jesus. At the end of the temptation in the desert, Luke says that the devil departed from Jesus “for a time.” Now Jesus says, “This is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” Satan is not an easy loser. He’s back.

I can be sure of this: None of us wins a decisive victory over evil this side of the grave. Satan will always be back, with more subtlety than the last time. It’s true, and as basic as warning a child to be careful crossing the street.

The fasting, prayer and almsgiving of Lent are designed to help me uncover the “darkness” that I hadn’t noticed creeping into my life.

Ask the Lord for help. He’s experienced in taking on the forces of evil.

Do You Share My Vision?

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By Rev. David Beckmann

Imagine a future in which children no longer go to bed hungry. I know it's possible. The progress we've made in alleviating hunger and poverty over Bread's 40 years - combined with my faith in Jesus Christ - convince me of this every day.

16348205135_584c230bcf_kIn the 1960s, severe malnutrition and starvation were serious problems in our country. Today, thanks to programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), nutrition assistance for pregnant women, infants, and young children, and the school lunch program, these problems have decreased dramatically. In the next 15 years, we could end these problems for good.

This year, Congress has some big decisions to make on our child nutrition programs, which are up for reauthorization. Additionally, members of Congress are threatening major cuts to SNAP, and nearly half of SNAP recipients are children. Negotiations in Congress have already begun. Will you take two minutes to email or call (800/826-3688) your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators? Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs.

Ending hunger starts with our children. It starts now. It starts with you. You can help end hunger by 2030 with an action as simple as an email or phone call. We need you to do your part. And we need Congress to do its part. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:49-51

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Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

Jesus’ disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51)

Things have gotten out of hand. First, a disciple leads a hostile group to seize Jesus and take him away under force. Then another disciple pulls a sword and cuts off someone’s ear.

In the previous 21 chapters of Luke’s Gospel, nothing like this has ever happened. Something is wrong . . . and it will only get worse.

But for just a moment, Jesus steps into the ugly fracas and, of all things, heals a member of the enemy group.

Jesus, the merciful healer, is back at it again. Much earlier in Luke’s Gospel he taught: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” He meant it, and here he is doing it.

What is the lesson for me? At first it might seem predictable: I’m supposed to go out and do the same to others.

But keep this in mind. Religion is more about God loving me than me loving God, or loving others. The first thing I have to catch is that God loves me, now, as I am. Before doing anything else, I need simply to let myself be on the receiving end of the goodness of the Lord.

Where in my life right now do I most need the gentle, healing touch of Jesus?

Swedish Soccer Player Spreads Word About Hunger

By Jennifer Gonzalez

It’s not usual to see a soccer player covered in tattoos. But what about covering your body with the names of 50 people you don’t know?

May sound extreme, but that’s exactly what Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimović did as part of the 805 Million Names campaign promoting the World Food Program. Ibrahimović, born to a Bosnian father and a Croatian mother, both of whom emigrated to Sweden, revealed the tattoos during a Valentine’s Day match between Paris Saint-German and Caen at Parc des Princes.

The campaign’s aim is to show the world that millions of people are going hungry. The names adorned on the soccer player are all people living with hunger.

At Bread for the World, we know the importance of ending hunger – it’s our life’s work. Today, there are 805 million chronically undernourished people around the world, according to a new policy briefing paper by the Roadmap Coalition, a group of organizations advocating for an end to hunger and malnutrition. Bread for the World Institute is a member of the coalition.

This is unacceptable. The briefing paper provides a roadmap to ending global hunger. The U.S. government’s primary contribution to improving global food security is through the Feed the Future Initiative.

The initiative improves the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, strengthens maternal and child nutrition, and builds capacity for long-term agricultural growth. In fact, seven million small farmers grew more crops and provided nutritious food to 12.5 million children in 2013 alone under the program.

Traditionally, the program has been funded by Congress through annual spending legislation. Last year marked the first time Congress introduced legislation to authorize the program, which has been a long-standing Bread priority.

Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass and the future of this program remains in the balance without official statutory approval by Congress. Congressional champions have indicated a commitment to introduce and pass legislation in 2015.

Bread will continue to work hard to make sure that Feed the Future becomes law in 2015. Continue to read Bread Blog throughout the year for the latest information on how you can help. Learn more: Feed the Future.

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

Lent Devotions: Luke 22:47-48

LENT2015-Blog-Banner

Editor’s note: This Lenten season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals from the Little Black Book, which was first created by Bishop Ken Untener of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. The devotionals are in the prayer tradition of Lectio Divina to help people pray the Passion of Our Lord.

While Jesus was still speaking, a crowd approached him and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48)

There could almost be a warning at this point in Luke’s Gospel: The following contains material that may be offensive to some – scandalous behavior by disciples . . . graphic violence . . . abusive language . . . a brutal execution. Some may wish to consider this before continuing.

Luke himself had a hard time with this material. For example, the Judas kiss. It’s embedded in the Christian memory. But read the passage again. Luke says that Judas “went up to Jesus to kiss him.” That’s enough. No need to keep looking when the kiss takes place. Compare this to Mark, who says: Judas went over to Jesus and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him.

We all have a hard time when there is bad news about our Church – failure, sin, public scandal. What should we do? Suppress it? Deny it?

I can learn from Luke who struggled with this but told the truth. Best to put it on the table, learn from it, and recognize that at all levels we are and always have been an imperfect Church. We are, each of us, all of us, saint and sinner.

I talk to Jesus a lot about myself. I ought also to talk to him about our Church. Actually, it’s his Church. I wonder what Jesus has to say to me about it?

Hunger in the News: Child Poverty Rates, Food Stamps, Criminal Justice Reform, and Child Hunger

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

Child hunger continues despite Obama's pledge,” by David Sarasohn, (Opinion) The Oregonian. “In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama made a pledge: The United States would solve its problem of child hunger by 2015. It was a major and fitting commitment to deal with a problem that's not only painful and unfair but undermines billions in federal spending on education and health care. But sooner than we might have expected, 2015 is here. And so, still, is child hunger.”

It’s time for Congress to be bold on criminal justice reform,” by Jessica Eaglin and Nicole Austin Hillery, MSNBC. “The word is out: Congress is finally moving forward on criminal justice reform. That’s great news. After decades in which Congress piled punishment upon punishment, now there’s a bipartisan consensus – plus bills – to do something about mass incarceration.”

Looking at Today's Child Poverty Rates: Are We Using the Right Measure?” by Patrick McCarthy, The Huffington Post. “There's an old bumper sticker still out that that started with President Reagan, who concluded, "We fought a war on poverty, and poverty won." Although the quote gained some traction last year -- the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty -- new evidence is disproving the clichés that government doesn't work, and public policy doesn't matter when it comes to creating opportunity.”

Who Gets Food Stamps? White People, Mostly,” by The Huffington Post. “Gene Alday, a Republican member of the Mississippi state legislature, apologized last week for telling a reporter that all the African-Americans in his hometown of Walls, Mississippi, are unemployed and on food stamps.”

Viola Davis tells of childhood marked by hunger,” by Kathy Lynn Gray, The Columbus Dispatch. “’Take me away from here,’ the 9-year-old girl begged God as she tried to shut out the scene before her. It was 2 a.m. in Central Falls, R.I., and her drunken father was trying to break her mother’s legs with a slab of wood outside their rat-infested apartment. ‘I’ll count to 10 and I want to be gone,’ she said as she knelt on the floor, screaming and sobbing. Award-winning actress Viola Davis didn’t get her wish that dark day in the early 1970s, and she lives each day with painful memories of that childhood, one filled with hunger so strong that she stole and searched through dumpsters for food.”

A national cry for criminal justice reform,” by Katrina vanden Heuvel, (Opinion) The Washington Post. “On the heels of the Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin tragedies — and in light of more recent injustices like the fatal shooting of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, an unarmed Mexican national whom Pasco, Wash., police officers saw fit to shoot multiple times despite his apparent surrender — there’s plenty of reason to despair the sorry state of our criminal justice system and the havoc it wreaks on the lives of too many innocent victims and their families.”

Meet Arthur Brooks, The Republican Party's Poverty Guru,” by Leigh Ann Caldwell, NBC News. “Listen closely and Republicans have begun to talk about poverty, an issue that has largely been dormant for at least two decades in GOP political circles. The intellectual muscle behind Its quiet resurgence is largely attributed to one person: Arthur Brooks. He has the ear of every potential Republican presidential candidate and is trying to change the way the party thinks about poverty and poor people.”

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