Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

World Prayers for March 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore

A row of wooden kelongs (fishermen's huts on stilts), which forms the backdrop for the Songs of the Sea musical fountain at Sentosa, Singapore. Wikimedia 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 29-April 4: Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore

Lord, we give profound thanks for the richness of the people and amazing diversity of life in the countries of Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore. There are many species of plants and animals which are found in these countries and nowhere else. May the people of these countries find peace and happiness even during difficult times.

We pray for the religious groups that are oppressed despite official freedom of religion, and also for the protection and encouragement of religious freedom. May many of the ethnic groups of these countries finally find long-lasting peace and that political reforms and democratization come to fruition in Malaysia.

We especially lift up Chinese inhabitants of Brunei who have been denied citizenship and face discrimination, and also the poor of Brunei, that they gain access to the means necessary to sustain and nourish themselves. During Women’s History Month, we raise up the many women of these countries, some who are treated as second-class citizens.

And most of all, we pray for people who suffer from hunger and poverty in these countries, where there is also great wealth and materialism in some parts. May the priorities and policies of these governments give consideration to people who are marginalized in an economic sense and provide assistance so that all people may live lives of dignity.

We ask these things in the power of your spirit, and in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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

Brunei: Not available
Malaysia: 1.7 percent
Singapore: Not available

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

Prayer is a central part of Bread for the World’s work. To learn more about how you can get involved with prayer at Bread, please go here

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34


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.

They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched. (Luke 23:34)

The normal Roman practice was to crucify victims naked. Sometimes, they were stripped before they even began their death march. Whether the Romans made a concession to the Jewish abhorrence of public nakedness is not known.

Psalm 22, speaking of the sufferings of the Messiah (the same Psalm that begins “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”), says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots.” Back then, garments were much more valuable than today, and were commonly awarded to the executioners.

It is a great insult to hang on a cross dying while others play a game of chance for your clothes. Crucifixion, on every score, was an ugly, humiliating way to die.

The people watching a crucifixion would normally be passers-by. The site chosen for a crucifixion was usually on a main route, so that passers-by would be forced to see it – just like unsuspecting commuters coming upon an accident on an expressway.

In Luke’s account, “the people” are respectful, awestruck, silent. He says they “stood by and watched.” When Jesus dies they will go home “beating their breasts.” Once again, “if you came to know him, you would love him.”

Maybe I need to get to know him better. Like Mary Magdalene did. Or the Beloved Disciple.


Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.


Lent Devotions: Luke 23:34


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.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Many hold this to be the most touching scene in all of Scripture.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes forgiveness. What is surprising is that he talks about God forgiving before repentance is even expressed.

• When the sinful woman at the banquet bathed his feet in her tears, Jesus tells the astonished guests that she loves much because she knows her sins have been forgiven (before she even came in).

• In the parable of the prodigal son, the father runs to his son to embrace and kiss him before the son has said a word.

• Now, on the cross, Jesus forgives everyone involved in his crucifixion before they show even a hint of remorse.

Some have wondered how, after all their planning and plotting, Jesus could say they didn’t know what they were doing. One has to understand Luke’s portrait of Jesus: If you knew him, you would love him. Despite all their evil plans, these people couldn’t have known what they were doing . . . or else they wouldn’t have done it. It’s as simple as that.

My first thought might be how I fail to show the same forgiveness to others.

Better that my first thought be how Jesus has the same compassion toward me before I even turn to him. I need to believe that – really believe it – before I can do the same to others.

Urgent: Tell Your Representative to Vote NO on House Budget

Update: The House proposed budget resolution passed: 228 yeas to 199 nays.  

By Eric Mitchell

The House of Representatives is about to vote on its fiscal year 2016 budget. The priorities the House budget lays out will not help end hunger. Please call (800-826-3688) or email your representative and say this budget is unacceptable.

The House is proposing severe cuts. They could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad. If we don’t challenge our representatives, here’s what their budget would do:

  • Take 69 percent of its $5.5 trillion in budget cuts from programs assisting low-income individuals – placing the burden on people who are already suffering;
  • Slash SNAP (food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 meals taken from each participant every year;
  • Cut lifesaving international programs by 16 percent. Funding for our international budget has already been cut by 22 percent. We can’t afford any further cuts.
  • By 2025, the budget would cut non-defense spending 33 percent below what it was in 2010. This puts programs like WIC, food aid, and poverty focused development assistance in serious danger; and
  • Let the 2009 improvements to the earned income and child tax credits expire, pushing 16 million people into – or even deeper into – poverty.

The House is voting TODAY. Your representative needs to hear that there are constituents in the district who find these cuts unacceptable. We should not be placing a greater burden on people who can least afford it.

Call (800-826-3688) or email your representative today! Urge a NO vote on the budget. The cuts to anti-hunger programs are horrific, too deep, and unacceptable.

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

David Beckmann Testifies on Capitol Hill Today

4682502331_7d649d4502_bBy Bread Staff

Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, testified today before the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, urging its members to fully fund poverty-focused development assistance in the fiscal year 2016 budget.

“Extreme poverty around the world has been cut in half. 100 million people have escaped from hunger in just the past decade alone. Annual deaths from preventable diseases have fallen remarkably. Fewer children are dying of pneumonia, diarrhea, and AIDS,” said Beckmann in his prepared remarks. “U.S. poverty-focused development assistance helps build secure, healthy, and productive nations.”

Bread for the World believes that we can end hunger by 2030 with the right investments.

Both the House of Representatives and Senate are planning to finalize their budgets for FY 2016 this week. The House proposes cutting international poverty focused development assistance by 16 percent overall. The Senate proposal is better, but still results in a one percent decrease. Bread considers this assistance a major part of the federal government’s overall work in fighting hunger.

Beckmann asked that the subcommittee encourages the Obama administration to ensure the programs’ effectiveness through its nutrition strategy. Malnutrition limits cognitive abilities, stunts growth, and increases susceptibility to diseases, especially among children.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Scriptural Manna: 'Let Mercy Be Your First Concern'


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.

"The Lord has told us what is right and what God demands: See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God." (Micah 6:8)

By Diane Ford Dessables

Last month, while attending Bread for the World’s race summit in Orlando Fla., a middle-aged white pastor and I were in conversation with each other. I am a middle-aged African-American woman. We sought to understand each other and be evermore serious about bringing Good News to a nation that is still coming to grips with its “original” sin – racism. We agreed that we needed to get serious about taking up the Cross.  If we are to make a commitment to follow Jesus anew, we need to do it with our eyes wide open.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043,” with minorities projected to be 57 percent of the population in 2060. In response, fear and restrictive laws are creeping back into our culture and our politics — often without explicit racial bias. However, structural inequities are becoming more rigid, and systemic biases harder to eradicate. As a result, new coalitions are forming and old ones are partnering with new allies. Together, they are ministering with and on behalf of underserved societies. That is the reason the pastor and I were Spirit-led to be in each other’s company.

That day, at the summit, I was curious to know how this pastor could begin to come to terms with the discomfort that loss of power, control, and privilege often produces. In response, he said, “I fear not knowing what I will become once I no longer have easy access to them.”

As I reflected on his words, I became keenly aware of two things: I am not responsible for addressing his fear; only he can do that through God’s love and grace. It is, however, my responsibility never to succumb to any temptation to use power, control or privilege as weapons to personally or systemically oppress another human being.

I responded, “I fear becoming what I abhor. I pray to God I’m spared from subjecting that on anyone else.”

Today, we are called to nurture a more complete relationship with God and a closer walk with Jesus; to commit to supporting and loving one another into a new way of being; to encourage each other’s prophetic voices and reach out together to heal the divides by which our communities are coming undone. 

The church today must not only reflect on how Jesus’ church can move beyond charity to justice, but we must also move beyond issues of socio-political justice, and contemplate the reason for and substance of our spiritual life. Today we must prepare together for the consequences of transcending our national spiritual status quo. It is out of this kind of movement that we will start to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…”

We can’t end hunger and poverty without being in deepened relationship with each other. We must allow God’s promise to love us and help guide us anew to justice, and mercy in our world.

Diane Ford Dessables is senior associate for denominational relations at Bread for the World.


Women Can Help 'Feed the Future' and Much More

Martha Akol is a former refugee who returned to her home several years ago in South Sudan. She is one of Africa's millions of women farmers who works hard to feed her family. Stephen Hovick Padre/Bread for the World

By Beth Ann Saracco

Earlier this month, the world celebrated International Women’s Day, a day to acknowledge women's economic, political, and social achievements. Around the world, improvements in the lives of women and their families have resulted in fewer maternal deaths, more educational opportunities, and increased political participation. What does this teach us? When women are healthy, empowered, and able to pursue educational and employment opportunities, everybody benefits.  

This is the primary message of the 2015 Hunger Report: When Women Flourish… We Can End Hunger. In order to end extreme hunger and poverty by 2030, we need to achieve greater gender equality and eliminate discrimination against women and girls. Unfortunately, in the U.S. and around the world, harmful cultural practices, national laws, and societal norms often leave women marginalized and unable to make decisions, especially ones that impact their own lives and those of their family and community.

The Hunger Report recommends that, in order to improve women’s empowerment and end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide, women should have more economic bargaining power.

If women had more control of their income and assets, their bargaining power in both the household and the market economy would increase, as well as their ability to feed and provide for themselves and their children. According to U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates, if women in Africa and elsewhere had the same access to agricultural resources as men, they could grow 20 to 30 percent more food. This could move roughly 150 million people of out hunger and poverty!

To achieve this, the U.S. government must increase its investments in agricultural-development programs like Feed the Future. And it should place a stronger emphasis on programming that supports women smallholder farmers when it implements projects.

Since its creation in 2010, Feed the Future has achieved impressive results in its 19 focus countries, helping more than seven million small farmers grow more food and providing nutritious food to more than 12.5 million children in 2013 alone.  

Feed the Future is helping to create countries that are more food-secure and eating more nutritious food. But this program could do more.

In order to ensure greater participation of women in Feed the Future programs and continue the initial progress, this initiative must be made a permanent program that continues beyond the Obama administration. While the program has been funded by Congress in annual appropriations legislation, without official statutory authorization, Feed the Future may not have a future of its own. H.R. 1567, the Global Food Security Act, was introduced yesterday in the House of Representatives. This bipartisan bill would permanently codify and authorize a comprehensive approach to global food security, and it would build upon the successes the U.S. government has already achieved through Feed the Future.

What can you do?

Contact your representative, and urge him/her to cosponsor H.R.1567, the Global Food Security Act. Now is the time for policymakers to authorize a program that has a proven ability to address the complex problem of hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.

Beth Ann Saracco is the International Policy Analyst in Bread's government relations department.

Lent Devotions: Luke 23:33


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.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified Jesus and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. (Luke 23:33)

Jesus finally meets his fate – crucifixion. Josephus, a first-century historian, called it “the most pitiable of deaths.”

It is told in three words – “they crucified him.” Jesus shares the spotlight with two criminals. They get more ink than he does.

The sentence of Pilate has been carried out: “They crucified him.” It’s all over but the dying.

The physical torture Jesus experienced in the crucifixion would have been the worst of his entire life. None of the four Gospels describes his pain. Words can only do so much. “They crucified him” is enough.

The cross. It will become the mark of a Christian . . . the logo of Christianity . . . the symbol that leads every procession . . . the sign I make upon myself . . . the sign parents trace on the face of a sleeping child . . . the very first ritual action at Baptism . . . the first spoken words at every Mass . . . the last words spoken at the grave.

Let there be no Christian home without a cross.

Let not a day pass that I do not look at the cross.

I’m nine days away from Good Friday. Now, or sometime today, find a cross. Look at it. Touch it.


Rep. Jim McGovern Uses Paper Plates to Tell SNAP Stories

By Robin Stephenson

During a floor debate on the fiscal year 2016 House budget proposal today, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) used paper plates to illustrate the human stories behind hunger statistics. The budget resolution, if enacted, would cut SNAP (formerly food stamps) by at least 34 percent, the equivalent of up to 220 missed meals annually for each SNAP participant.

SNAP served more than 46 million Americans in 2014.  You can find data about your community and its SNAP households in a state-by-state interactive map created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

“The numbers don’t lie,” McGovern said. “But the stories are far more powerful.”

McGovern, a Bread for the World board member, recently asked SNAP participants to send their messages to Congress on paper plates. The following are samples of messages McGovern read out loud on the House floor earlier today:

“SNAP means that as a single mother I was able to finish college, feed my family, and find a career where I am able to advocate for a program that really works."

“SNAP means dignity.”

“SNAP matters to me because no senior should have to choose between buying food or paying for their medication.”

“When I was a child my father left, and the only reason we could afford food was because of food stamps.  I never get a chance to say thank you.  So, thank you.”

The House will continue to debate the budget resolution with a final vote expected later this week. The Senate is also considering a budget resolution that could lead to devastating increases in hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad. 

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators and representative at 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.



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