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Bread Activists Part of Nationwide Day of Action

‘Human circles’ symbolize need to protect programs

February 2012

Seattle’s gusty winds and a soaking rain might have kept less passionate people at home, but more than 50 faith-based activists—Bread members among them—gathered outside Sen. Patty Murray’s office in November to call attention to drastic cuts some lawmakers had proposed to programs for hungry and poor people.

Rev. David Mesenbring, a pastor at Seattle’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, led the group in prayer as activists from Bread, Sojourners, and local faith groups formed a human circle to symbolize the “circle of protection” they hoped members of Congress would create around these programs.

PBS travel show host and longtime Bread supporter Rick Steves urged lawmakers to protect this vital funding. “I believe the mark of a civilized society is how it cares for its needy, its homeless, and its hungry,” he told participants.

The group then entered Sen. Murray’s office to present a letter, signed by 118 religious leaders across Washington, which urged the senator and her fellow Super Committee members not to cut programs that help hungry and poor people. The timing was critical: The letter was presented exactly one week before the Super Committee’s deficit-reduction decisions were due to Congress.

Co-sponsored by the Seattle Council of Churches and Faith Action Network, the event was part of a national Circle of Protection Action Day, in which several “human circles” of activists formed throughout the country. Similar events took place in New York City, Portland, OR, Ft. Collins, CO, and the Washington cities of Tacoma and Vancouver.

In Portland, more than 50 Christians gathered in an event coordinated by the Oregon Center for Christian Voices. United Church of Christ pastor Chuck Currie began with a homily, and organizers spoke about the need to protect funding for food stamps and other nutritional programs, tax credits for working poor people, and international programs that provide food aid, medicine, and immunizations.

Activists wrote on strips of paper the names of specific programs or people they believed needed to be included in the circle of protection. The strips were made into paper chains and delivered to Sen. Ron Wyden’s office later that week.

While the Super Committee ultimately failed to meet its Nov. 23 deadline, the work of Bread activists and partners demonstrated the strong voice people of faith carry on issues important to hungry and poor people.

“We kept the most devastating deficit-reduction proposals from becoming a reality last year. But the storm isn’t over, and 2012 will have plenty of rainy days.” said Bread organizer Robin Stephenson. “As long as we keep up the pressure, we will again protect programs—keeping food on the table during these tough economic times. There is much to be hopeful for.”

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