October 25, 2014

Get Out The Vote

An average election in the United States has around 60% of the eligible voting population turning out at the polls. There are a variety of reasons why people don’t get out and vote: their job schedule does not allow it, they are away and didn’t apply for an absentee ballot, disillusionment with the political atmosphere, among others. With the rise in popularity of suppressive voting legislation, we may see an even lower turnout than normal in this election. What can we do to get out the vote?

Tell your neighbors

Remind your friends, neighbors, family members, and congregations to vote on November 6th. Let them know that voting is one of the best ways to make our voices heard. If the political system is not what they’d like it to be, they can change it through voting. Remind them that Election Day involves voting far more than the presidency - important local issues are also at stake. A group of you and your friends can get together and organize a night of phone banking before the election to call the families in your church directory and remind them to vote.

CANADA: The Burden of Poverty: A Snapshot of Poverty Across Canada

“The Burden of Poverty: A snapshot of poverty across Canada” uses the most recent data from Statistics Canada to demonstrate the reality of poverty across the country.

Released on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, this report provides an accessible set of materials to support national and community-level anti-poverty work across the country, including CPJ’s own outreach and engagement activities, and Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada.

Highlights of the “Burden of Poverty” report:

  • Measuring the unequal impact of poverty on some groups, like new immigrants, families led by single mothers, un-attached adults, youth and Aboriginal people.
  • Presenting poverty rates for each province and territory as well as 32 communities across Canada.
  • Calling for a federal plan to deal with the causes of poverty.

CANADA: Momentum Builds to Make Canada Open for Justice

Since the Open for Justice Campaign launched a year ago, 90,000 Canadians have taken action in support of Canadian mining accountability overseas, and there have been more than 65 meetings with Members of Parliament in ridings across the country.

This groundswell of citizen support is making an impact.

Thanks to this initiative, led by KAIROS’ advocacy partner, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability, public awareness about mining justice is rising in both our churches and the wider community. And, more and more Parliamentarians are voicing support for the two key political reforms at the heart of the campaign: the creation of an extractive-sectorOmbudsman; and legislated access to Canadian courts for those who have been harmed by Canadian corporate activity abroad.

National City Hosts The Reformation Project

All are invited to join us on November 6-8 for The Reformation Project DC Conference.

This conference provides training and resources on how to talk about the Bible and LGBT issues with non-LGBT-affirming Christians, and form connections with LGBT-affirming Christians with like-minded people in their local areas who can support them as they seek to open up more constructive dialogue on LGBT issues in their faith communities.

National City members can register online to get a special $99 rate:

EDITORIAL: Democracy Under Attack

OK. This does sound a bit over the top. I don’t believe we’re on the slippery slope toward socialism, so feared by the Obama haters. And I don’t believe we’re heading toward a new form of fascism as feared by progressives among the disappointed Obama lovers. But recent news reports from New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago about public education do suggest that some of our most important and cherished democratic institutions are threatened.

Last month in Philadelphia the appointed School Reform Commission, essentially accountable to the governor of Pennsylvania, unilaterally cancelled the public school teachers’ contract, imposing steep new copayments on teachers for their health care benefits and effectively taking over the health care program from the union. The public school district in Philadelphia has been under siege for several years, held hostage to a funding system that has been relentlessly diverting resources from the state toward tax breaks and charters. The result has been thousands of layoffs, schools with nurses at best one day a week, teachers forced to buy their own supplies, no salary increases, etc. Meanwhile charter schools are being expanded, with many students diverted to the for profit online behemoth K-12 which offers very dubious – at best – educational value and happy financial returns to its investors.

Music Recommended by Green Chalice: "Who's Gonna Stand Up?" (Neil Young)

Protect the wild
Tomorrow's child

Protect the land

From the greed of man

Take out the dams
Stand up to oil

Protect the plants

And renew the soil

Who's gonna stand up and save the earth?

Who's gonna say that she's had enough?

Who's gonna take on the big machine?

Who's gonna stand up and save the earth?

This all starts with you and me

Disciples Participate in Ferguson, Missouri Protests

Woven together by the common thread of outrage over the August 2014 police-action shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old, unarmed African American man in Ferguson, MO, thousands of protesters took to the streets of the state’s Saint Louis County from October 10 to October 13 to demand justice for Mr. Brown and the end of racial profiling in law enforcement.

Under the banners of “#FergusonOctober,” and “Weekend of Resistance,” demonstrators first took their frustrations to Clayton, the hub of the Saint Louis County government, on Friday, October 10, in order to demand that a special prosecutor be appointed to the case. This step was deemed necessary as Officer Darren Wilson, a White male, who fired the shots that killed Mr. Brown, remained on paid leave awaiting a grand jury decision on his possible criminal prosecution in the case. On Saturday, October 11, local, national, and global justice activists marched through downtown Saint Louis holding signs calling for the indictment of Officer Wilson and chanting, “Black Lives Matter,” and ”Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”

Congo Week 2014 was October 19th-25th

“Breaking the Silence: Congo Week” was an opportunity to raise awareness about the devastating situation in the Congo and mobilize support on behalf of the people of the Congo.

Paul wrote in I Corinthian 12:26, "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it."

Global Ministries, as a member of the Body of Christ, suffers today because of injustice and exploitation of our sisters and brothers in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We are committed as members of the Body of Christ to break the silence, stop the pillaging, promote justice, defend women and children, protect the environment and support Congo.

The events of Congo Week serve to help participants learn about, reflect in worship, and together prepare to speak prophetically to leaders around the world to make a real difference in their policies concerning the Congo.

Pastors Lead Sunday Discussion on Racism and Equality

Speaking at a “Dialogue on Racial Justice” on Sunday, the Revs. John Bennett and W.T. Edmonson talked about their experiences with racism and thoughts on equality, while Edmonson urged the community to “be engaged in the conversation.”

Bennett is a retired Disciples of Christ minister and Edmonson is with Second Baptist Church and the former local president of the NAACP.

Both were among the 23 people arrested in May for disrupting the Missouri Senate to protest lawmakers’ refusal to accept federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program. The two speakers said they wouldn’t discuss their role in that protest, since they’re facing a Nov. 7 court date.

They spoke to about two dozen people at Sunday’s Universalist Unitarian service. In the 50-minute discussion, the two asked each other several questions about racism and equality.

Immigrant Representatives Visit Legislators

Seven meetings in one day. Such was the schedule for a group of 12 Bunong and four Jarai Disciples in Washington D.C. in September. Hosted by Refugee & Immigration Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the group was on Capitol Hill and in National City Christian Church.

Among the offices visited was North Carolina Senator Richard Burr's office and heard of proposals that Senator Burr will introduce in the next year related to Montagnard concerns. Senator Kay Hagan's office expressed interest in ongoing contact.

The third visit was with a staff member in the 12th District House Office which represents the Charlotte, Greensboro, and High Point district where all the Disciples live. The fourth was with staff to Representative Frank Wolf, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission which has studied Montagnard testimony and drafted a letter this summer urging that Vietnam not be included in the TransPacific Trade Partnership until human rights are improved.

October 24, 2014

Central America Refugee Crisis

As the headlines have moved away from this crisis, there are many children who remain unaccompanied at the U.S. Border. More than 300 children are reported to be crossing into the United States daily. Increased insecurity and high levels of violence involving young people and children aged 7 to 14 years, has led to high levels of forced migration in younger age groups. Week of Compassion has and will continue to respond alongside these children. 

If you, your congregation or community are seeking ways to respond to this crisis you can always donate to Week of Compassion. You can also join children, parents, friends and people of faith across the country in sending cards of care and prayer to the almost 700 undocumented mothers and children (infants through teens) who have been detained at the border through the CWS Angel to Angel project. For more details how to write your letter click here. Refugee and Immigration Ministries, of Disciples Home Missions, also has a wealth resources on their website, from how to collect goods for children at the border to becoming a foster parent. Thank you for being present with children at the border.

Emergency Ebola Virus Supplies to Health Facilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo

 A case of Ebola was reported in the Boende region of the Democratic Republic of Congo in August of this year and tests were conducted and have recently confirmed that the virus strain found is an indigenous virus and not the variant that has been spreading in West Africa. Ebola is highly contagious and spreads easily and rapidly through human contact. The incubation period is between two to twenty-one days.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the fourth most populous nation in Africa. Taking preemptive precautions in the country in regards to this new Ebola virus outbreak is essential to saving lives. As most recently learned from the current outbreak in West Africa that has become the deadliest to date, it is imperative that appropriate protection equipment and training be provided to health care workers who are on the ground.

National Religious Campaign Against Torture Applauds Pope Francis’ Comments on Prisons

Following today's comments by Pope Francis regarding the treatment of prisoners around the world, Rev. Ron Stief, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture--a coalition comprised of more than 300 religious organizations working to end torture in United States prisons--released the following statement:

"I applaud the comments of Pope Francis naming the widespread use the isolation in maximum security detention as a 'form of torture.' The Pope's words call the United States, a global outlier in its widespread use of solitary confinement, to account. His words echo the call U.S. faith leaders have made for decades, demanding an end to the U.S. prison system's use of solitary confinement. The psychological and physical suffering of the more than 80,000 incarcerated adults and youths who daily endure the torture of isolation in the U.S. must now end, according to Pope Francis, for human dignity must limit such 'grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person."

October 18, 2014

Charters in Chicago Underperform Traditional Neighborhood Schools Says New Report

In his new book, Losing Our Way, journalist Bob Herbert traces in broad strokes several trends that he believes define our society. He examines the decay of our infrastructure; the collapse in employment—especially for young adults; the wars we fight—who does the fighting and how we care for the injured; and our evolving approach to educating our more than 50 million children and adolescents. You can read excerpts from Herbert’s book here and here and listen to Bill Moyers interview Herbert about his book.

Tracing the development of public policy in education, Herbert declares that charter schools have not fulfilled the promises of their proponents: “Charter schools were supposed to prove beyond a doubt that poverty didn’t matter, that all you had to do was free up schools from the rigidities of the traditional public system and the kids would flourish…. President Obama praised charter schools as ‘incubators of innovation’ and made their expansion a central component of his Race to the Top initiative. States that did not make it easier to increase their stock of charter schools could not share in the Race to the Top billions. Corporate leaders, hedge fund managers, and foundations with fabulous sums of money at their disposal lined up in support of charter schools, and politicians were quick to follow. They argued that charters would not only boost test scores and close achievement gaps but also make headway on the vexing problem of racial isolation in schools. None of it was true. Charters never came close to living up to the hype. After several years of experimentation and the expenditure of billions of dollars, charter schools and their teachers proved, on the whole, to be no more effective than traditional schools.” (Losing Our Way, p. 210)

Bishop T.D. Jakes: Mobilizing Churches to the Polls on 10/26

FRB Is Pleased to Announce New Overseas Programs in Asia and Africa

FRB's India-Namkum Program with Mennonite Central Committee is training farmers in Jharkhand State on rainwater harvesting, organic farming, livestock management, and local leadership development. Increased water efficiency will enable participants to grow a second crop each year.

Mennonite Central Committee also leads FRB's new Vietnam-Tan Son program. This program is helping formerly nomadic people in 7 villages transition to farming through Ag training, animal husbandry and improved fertilizer use.

FRB's Myanmar-Chin program with Catholic Relief Services aims to increase the availability of maize through improved planting, harvesting and storage techniques. The program will provide training, demonstration and follow-up, seed selection and the use of air tight grain storage systems.

Thanks to successful community development, The Mozambique- Cattle Cluster Program is complete and World Hope International is now working with the same communities to establish kitchen gardens for improved nutrition. FRB is pleased to be able to support this new focus through the Mozambique -Gardens program.

October 17, 2014

Richest 1% of People Own Nearly Half of Global Wealth

The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.

“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.

The report, which calculates that total global wealth has grown to a new record – $263tn, more than twice the $117tn calculated for 2000 – found that the UK was the only country in the G7 to have recorded rising inequality in the 21st century.

Coalition On Human Needs: Guide To Voting Early

With voter id laws suppressing voters and the voices that need to be heard the most, educating and encouraging voters to register and vote early is key. We are counting down to election day and need you to promote early voting. See below for helpful resources compiled by Non-Profit VOTE and please share.

For more on laws and tactics that are contributing to voter suppression see our latest blog post and don't forget to take the pledge to vote November 4:

Pentagon Warns Climate Change Will Intensify Conflict

Natural disasters from climate change will intensify global instability, disease, poverty and conflict, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Global warming will worsen many of the challenges the U.S. military already is grappling with, the department said in a report yesterday.

“We refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today -– from infectious disease to terrorism,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a blog post. “While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action.”

The report underscores the seriousness of the risks as seen by the military, which handled flooding and tsunami relief efforts in Asia in recent years and is now responsible for setting up treatments centers for Ebola victims in West Africa.

The Teacher Gap: Strong Gains but Large Jobs Gap Remains

In September, public-sector employment increased by 12,000 jobs, with the majority of that growth coming from local government education—an increase of 6,700 jobs. Local government education is largely jobs in public preK-12 education (the majority of which are teachers, but also teacher aides, librarians, guidance counselors, administrators, and support staff).

While this is clearly a positive sign, unfortunately, the number of teachers and related education staffers fell dramatically in the recession and has failed to get anywhere near its pre-recession level, let alone the level that would be required to keep up with the expanding student population. Since 2008, public preK–12 enrollment increased by 1.5 percent. The figure below breaks down the teacher gap. The dark blue line illustrates the level of teacher employment. While the most recent positive trend is obvious, the longer term losses are also readily apparently.