Walking in the Footsteps of the Magi
By David Beckmann
Dear Members and Friends:
In a few weeks, the journey of the Magi will end when they find Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem. Like the Magi, we have traveled for many days in our quest to eliminate hunger in our world. Throughout our trek, we have stayed focused on our guiding star—Jesus’ charge that we take care of "the least of these."
Since June, my last report to you, we have continued to forestall major cuts to programs that protect hungry and poor people. We continue to press on with our 2012 Offering of Letters campaign, "Expanding the Circle of Protection," despite the political polarization in an election year.
Thank you for being so active in our campaign. Since June, you and Bread staff have held more than 300 meetings with members of Congress and their staff. You helped recruit 82 cosponsors—both Democrats and Republicans—to reject cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in the House version of the farm bill. And you continue to call and send your members of Congress letters and personal email messages.
You have successfully gotten the attention of the president of the United States. With our Circle of Protection partners, Bread for the World asked both presidential candidates this fall to provide short video statements on how they would provide help and opportunity to hungry people in our country and around the world. We were able to release those statements just after the party conventions. More than 100,000 of you viewed the videos; more than 50,000 of you signed a petition or wrote an email message to each candidate; and millions heard about the issue as our radio spots were aired 900 times on Christian radio stations.
Now, during the important lame duck session between the election and the convening of the 113th Congress in January 2013, we are urgently talking with both Republican and Democratic legislators. We believe that our coalition of faith groups can provide moral support for a balanced bipartisan deal that would address the deficit problem without doing it on the backs of poor people. Only a bipartisan deal can solve the U.S. budget problem, so we advocate a solution that includes tax increases and responsible spending cuts to programs serving people who aren’t poor—allowing our country to continue its commitment to fighting hunger and poverty for the long term.
We are reaching out to policy makers, church communities, and grassroots advocates in other ways as well. This fall, Bread for the World was a production partner in an important documentary about poverty in the United States. "The Line" puts human faces on poverty statistics as it tells the stories of a former bank vice president, a single mother, a shrimp fisherman, and a busboy as they try to make ends meet after losing their jobs.
In March 2013, we will be partners with Participant Media in the release of "A Place at the Table," a major new documentary about hunger in America. The film will be part of our next campaign, "A Place at the Table: Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters." While our new campaign will continue our 2012 campaign to expand the circle of protection, we will also ask the newly-elected president to set a target and make a plan to end hunger and poverty.
While our situation in the country may seem clouded by the recession and political polarization, we have good news on the international front.
Our 2013 Hunger Report, entitled “Within Reach: Global Development Goals,” reveals that our efforts and those of our anti-hunger allies are making a difference. The Millennium Development Goals, set in 2000 by the international community, aims to cut extreme hunger and poverty in half by 2015. According to the World Bank, we’ve already hit the target for reducing poverty, with big gains in countries as varied as Bangladesh, Brazil, and Ghana. And a new analysis by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization shows that we are closing in on the target for reducing hunger.
Think about that achievement for a minute. Through a concerted effort, the number of hungry and poor people around the world has decreased by nearly one half. That is a testament to people of faith who have moved governments to lift millions of people out of poverty. We still have a long way to go, but these reports tell us that we are making progress.
This has been a long journey for all of us, but our guiding star continues to glow brightly. As we continue on this holy path, may we be like the Magi—humble, obedient, and focused on God.
It is my wish that the days ahead be filled with thanksgiving for all God’s gifts and our celebration of Christ’s birth. May they sustain you in joy and hope throughout the new year.
Grace and peace,
President, Bread for the World