Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From South Africa to New Orleans to CDSP - Summer MDG Musings

Jennifer Morazes, M. Div. and current MSW/PhD. student UC Berkeley

(picture shows youth group participant in New Orleans mission trip with EGR Board member Marc Andrus)

Who is My Neighbor?

So much has happened this summer that it is difficult to process. Despite my intentions to write about my experiences and thoughts sequentially, my external communication has been stifled. Perhaps this stifling has been the result of a feeling I have experienced that, having worked both on the national and international level for ten years in the areas of homelessness, trauma/violence and resource distribution, I can no longer compartmentalize what I witness both nationally and internationally. However, expressing this synthesis becomes difficult in words and conceptually, as – especially as Americans – we tend to struggle with the question of “Who is my neighbor?” and we are very protective of the boundaries we form in answering this question.

Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation was born at a time when, as Americans, we felt vulnerable. Yet, in the vulnerability of 9/11, some Americans felt compelled to reinvigorate conversations about authentic and just relationships internationally. We recognized that, despite our best efforts, we cannot exist without others. We are (like others in the world) also at risk, but in this recognition comes the hope of partnership and relationship, an acknowledgement of our humanity.

No where has our vulnerability as a nation been more plain to me than in my trip to the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The reality of New Orleans is that while the risk we experienced from 9/11 was “external”, the errors in New Orleans were human and domestic. New Orleans has been most affected not by the natural effects of Hurricane’s Katrina and Rita, but by miscalculation, by ignoring the levee weaknesses prior to the hurricanes. And, if we seek to quibble about whether this was in fact “error”, there can be no mistake that true neglect has affected residents since then. Here in the United States, it is important to honestly know that it was only three months ago that electricity and water was restored to parts the Lower Ninth, and the local public school is scheduled to open in August - two years after the levees broke! In working with an area summer camp, it was apparent that in spite of the care and concern and investment of their parents and community, the kids are behind - at crucial development periods educationally. Many of the local men actively seek work but are not finding work, and overall people seek shelter, food, comfort - the most basic and Biblical needs! The scar and badge of the area is signified by the mark upon house after house by the Guardsmen who, after the searches, marked the house as searched with the number found dead. This image - which is actually a Cross on its side - is a reminder that as a nation and people, we are not far removed from two years ago, and we are all commended to invest in our neighbor in the Coastal region.

Some may debate the priority of investing in vulnerable communities locally or donating to projects globally. However, in reality, there is no “either-or.” As Americans, we must realize that our commitments lie with our brothers and sisters in the Gulf Coast just as they do in the Philippines, or Tanzania. If 9/11 or the levees breaking has taught us anything, it is that we must disregard artificial boundaries and see the common thread which weaves us together. Having worked alongside students in Southern Africa through the Anglican Students Federation, I can honestly say that many of the concerns of the students there were similar to those of the residents of Louisiana currently – economic investment, just resource distribution, and recognition of the collective strength and capital of those who have been disenfranchised. This national experience can help provide us with a small window into the daily experiences of others in other countries and their challenges for basic needs.

After returning from my trip to New Orleans, I participated in a class offered at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific taught by Dr. Sheila Andrus. Again, I witnessed many connections forming which replace some of these either-or divides, especially in regards to the environment. The air people breathe is literally influenced by the practices of adjoining countries. So, as we affect the health of people in Canada through our practices, we also breathe the air from China and are affected by their practices. We share air, we share water, and ultimately we all share responsibility. Along the lines of health care practices, the most effective measures employed in countries such as Haiti to administer medication –such as providing people transportation to their medical appointments and training peers in the community to teach about the medications – are very similar to assertive practices employed in community mental health settings to aid homeless people with mental illness and people with HIV in the United States. Sharing these models is also part of our collective responsibility.

My entrance into this conversation, admittedly, straddles this local-global connection in a vivid way. My father was drafted in the Vietnam War and suffered trauma as a result of his service. At one period, he was homeless on the street like many Vietnam War veterans. This is a story of local-global misconnection – a story which exemplifies a distorted relationship based upon violence, violence in which no one wins. Through my own vulnerability and the struggles which ensued from this experience, I seek to identify and form models of hope and partnership, rather than those based upon violence and power misused.

Perhaps the most important lesson we can learn as Americans is to offer non-intrusive support to our international neighbors. In 2001, I had the privilege of attending the Anglican Students’ Federation of Southern Africa’s yearly conference. I was inspired by the work of then student organizer Francisco Zandamela in his conviction that international ties must be formed around concerns such as viable economic solutions and HIV. The conference title was “Transforming Victims into Victors” and the point was that our call in our histories – personal, interpersonal, communal, even international – is not to be victimized by the past or what we may see as “failures." Instead, the process of identifying both the stones and seeds in our own hearts provides us with the potential for how we ALL can engage in the process of transforming our histories, through the promise of Christ, into victories.Francisco almost single-handedly organized a conference for young adults on HIV, a very important conference for this very at risk population in Southern Africa. Through the conference, many young people were inspired to get tested and to change behaviors that may put them at risk. Another inspiring piece of the conference for me was seeing connections formed from people from very different parts of the world. For me, Francisco’s life, which ended tragically in a car crash six-months later, was a testament to John’s truth: Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. Our relationship to others and ourselves is a reflection upon our relationship to the Divine. I expect there are local leaders like Francisco emerging to engage the issues confronting the Gulf Coast.

I learned from Francisco in Southern Africa, I learned from residents in the Lower Ninth Ward, and I learn from those confronting homeless daily in the United States. Simply put, we all breathe the same air, we are each other’s neighbor, and we all through our actions have the capacity to transform the crosses of suffering to those of resurrection. The ripple effects of our own everyday actions prove that our choices and the choices of others can no longer be considered in isolation. From what we buy, to what we breathe, our impact, OUR COMMUNITY, and OUR NEIGHBOR, extends from ourselves - globally. There is no longer a separation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Red Letter Christians

The Saturday edition of the Decatur Daily runs a column by the Rev. James Evans, pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala. He's been a leading progressive voice in the Baptist Church about a wider ballot of social justice and faith and politics issues during the past few years, and is an outspoken advocate for the poor in Alabama. I've heard him speak several times, and each time I'm deeply moved by his passion for serving the lesser among us. He is, indeed, one of those "Matthew 25" members of the clergy -- something I think we often forget we're ALL called to do.

His column this past Saturday excited me, and I wanted to pass it along as something to think about. Rather than opine myself, I'll just run it here and let it sit with you and your thoughts. When I read it, I had one of those moments where I said out loud "Dang, I wish I had written this!"

The column...

The language of my faith is replete with appeals for believers to "be faithful to Jesus." Other words include "faithful follower," "loyal disciple" and "let Jesus be Lord of your life."

The theology behind the language is simple and yet profound. Most Protestant evangelicals believe that Jesus fulfilled everything God has ever tried to tell us. They believe God has spoken authoritatively and truthfully through Jesus. As a result, what we need to know about living and being human the way God wants us to be can be found in the life and words of Jesus.

This line of thinking is what lies behind the WWJD bracelet craze from a few years ago. Any problem, any dilemma, any crossroad faced in life can easily be resolved simply by figuring out "what Jesus would do."

This simple theology has recently developed an interesting political angle. For two decades now, conservative evangelicals have been pursuing a social agenda that includes matters such as abortion, restriction of gay rights, and prayer and Bible reading in public school. They have also managed to gain enough control over several school districts in various places to seriously impede the teaching of evolution.

All of this, mind you, under the umbrella of "being faithful to Jesus."

But not all evangelicals dance to this hymn. There are Christians, Bible believers and Jesus followers, who are dismayed by the narrow use of the faith in the political arena. Outspoken critics such as evangelist Tony Campolo argue that the heart of Jesus' message is completely overlooked as conservative Christians try to impose their version of Christianity on the rest by means of the legislative process.

For instance, Jesus never spoke about homosexuality at all. In fact, the case can be made that he actually set aside the requirements in Leviticus that call for the execution of those who engage in sexual practices prohibited by the law. He at least set them aside on one occasion.

But beyond what Jesus did not talk about are the many important matters that he did talk about, and seemed to practice in his own life. Campolo believes it is time for Christians to rediscover the "red-letter" way of being faithful. What he is referring to is the practice of many Bible publishers of printing the words of Jesus in red ink. Campolo believes that "red-letter Christians" have concerns beyond the usual conservative laundry list of social issues.

The way this plays out politically is quite a bit different from what we have seen recently. Campolo, and others, are not interested in building a religious left with Democrats as the favored party — that's the same mistake conservatives have been making. They are telling candidates from all parties that if they are going to invoke the name of Jesus then let their actions and policies reflect the red-letter portions of the New Testament. And if they are not, then leave Jesus out of it.

It's really quite an illuminating exercise to simply go through the New Testament and read the red-letter parts. Toward the end of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus paints a picture of God's final judgment. Standing center stage in his vision of the end is an array of social outcasts.

Jesus calls them "the least of these," and suggests that if we have not cared for them, then we can't really claim to have known him. It's right there in red and white.

James L. Evans, a syndicated columnist, also serves as pastor of Auburn First Baptist Church. He can be reached at
I would love to hear anyone's comments or feedback. How does this theology change how you look at your faith from day-to-day, rather than just on Sundays?

Monday, July 16, 2007

What Does Africa Need Most: Technology or Aid?

From the New York Times.

Published: June 17, 2007

I AM just back from Tanzania in East Africa.

In the mornings, disregarding the protests of the armed guards at my lodge near Arusha, I jogged along muddy footpaths. After the heavy rains, and under a low, misty sky, the fields looked as ruined as a battlefield. Very poor farmers and their children stared curiously at me as I passed.

In the afternoons, I attended the TEDGlobal 2007 conference, held by the Technology, Entertainment and Design organization in the modern Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. The contrast between the two experiences troubled me.

TED conferences, mostly held in Monterey, Calif., are invitation-only affairs, are attended by the aristocracy of Silicon Valley and are known for their adventurousness in drawing together wildly disparate trends in technology, business and the arts.

On this occasion, Bono, the Irish rock star and champion of African causes, had persuaded the conference’s organizer, Chris Anderson, to invite the usual crowd, as well as African entrepreneurs, activists, health care professionals and artists to this tropical, leafy region midway between the Serengeti Plain and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Opening the conference on June 4, Mr. Anderson described his purposes as frankly promotional. Too often, he said, the only images of Africa that Westerners see are of drought, famine, disease and civil war. By contrast, TED Global 2007 would present an Africa that was newly entrepreneurial, increasingly wealthy and tech savvy, and largely politically stable.

“It’s a story,” Mr. Anderson said, “that is unfolding across the continent, and it’s a story that’s not well known outside of Africa.”

But beyond this Panglossian message, however much a corrective to the common images of African misery and however flattering to the pride of TED’s African attendees, was something that everyone at the conference knew (and which I saw every morning on my runs). Whether measured by per capita income or by the gross domestic product of its nations, Africa is the poorest place on earth. The question that the conference was really exploring was this: How can we make every African family richer?

At TED Global 2007, I witnessed one small skirmish in a larger ideological conflict between those who believe that Africa needs more and better international aid, and those who think entrepreneurialism and technology will lift the continent out of poverty and thus reduce its miseries.

Predictably, TED’s attendees and speakers were spellbound by technology and entrepreneurialism and, at the same time, distrustful of international aid.

“What man has ever become rich by holding out a begging bowl?” asked Andrew Mwenda, an Ugandan journalist and social worker, now a research fellow at Stanford in California.

Mr. Mwenda argued that $500 billion in international aid over 50 years had achieved nothing in Africa and that the persistence of African poverty could be explained, in part, by aid. Charity, he said, had “distorted the incentive structure” and had persuaded the brightest Africans to work for corrupt governments. He called upon African entrepreneurs to build African businesses and the American investors in TED’s audience to finance them.

Echoing Mr. Mwenda, Russell Southwood, the publisher of Balancing Act, a newsletter about technology in Africa, implored African entrepreneurs and Western business leaders to “invest in shortages.” Africa, he said, could “leapfrog” the industrial technologies that Westerners use and build truly 21st-century technology systems and networks.

As an example, Mr. Southwood pointed to a near absence of telephone landlines in sub-Saharan Africa; cellular networks for mobile phones could quickly bring modern communications to hundreds of millions of Africans.

At least one of the African attendees of the conference was representative of the kind of technological entrepreneurialism that the show advocated.

Read the entire story here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What is YOUR Congregation Doing With the MDGs?

We're now at the halfway point of the time frame set for acheiving the Millennium Development Goals and it's time to see how we're doing. The UN report card is out, and it's time to gather information for our own -- and we need your help.

EGR has constructed an online survey to gather data from every congregation in the church on what they are doing to embrace God's mission of global reconciliation and the MDGs. Click here to take the survey now.

It's a short survey -- it shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes of your time -- but it will accomplish much for EGR and this movement. It's divided into six sections that give us information on how your congregation is engaging the MDGs through

*Prayer & Worship
*Connecting/Building Relationship

The sixth section is informational questions about you and your congregation that will allow us to keep track of whose data we have gathered, and sort by diocese and other factors.

The survey also contains opportunities to request information be sent to you about things like MDG educational curricula and how to hold a U2charist.

There are also opportunities for you to share more in-depth about creative ideas your congregation has had for embracing the MDGs, mission trips -- anything that can be shared with the wider church to help other congregations in answering God's call to mission.

Click here to take the survey now.

The only personal information we ask is your name and email so we can contact you with any information you have requested or to get more information if something you share is worth sharing with the greater church in more detail. EGR does not share this personal information with anyone.

The more congregations that take the survey, the better our data will be, the more accurate a picture we'll get of how the church is doing, and the more stories, ideas and resources we'll have to share with the rest of the church.

Here's what you can do:
1. Click here to take the survey now.
2. Cut and paste this URL>into an email and send it to as many different people as you can, asking them to take the survey for their congregation.
3. Watch for EGR updates and see the picture come into focus.

Got any questions about the survey or anything else about EGR, just email us!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Eight Ways to Live the MDGs

Sarah Grapentine of Trinity Church, Wall Street, offers this great article in the latest issue of Transformation.

The Episcopal Church is abuzz about the Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are the United Nations’ goals for eradicating extreme poverty, empowering women, providing primary education, creating environmental sustainability, and combating disease. These goals can seem pretty big — and they are. But a small change can be part of a big difference — even in our individual, daily lives.

Break the (piggy) bank. The Episcopal Church has committed 0.7% of its budget to programs that support the Millennium Development Goals, and is asking you to do the same. But where to find this money on top of your other charitable donations? Pocket change can really add up: in 2004, users of Coinstar’s coin counting machines donated $3 million in spare change for charity.

A woman’s place is in the marketplace. Donate those pennies to a microfinance program helping women start small businesses. Why specifically empower women? Studies show that overall family welfare, including children’s nutritional status, is likely to be higher when microfinance is provided to women rather than men. Try, and become a microfinancier. Browse microloan applicants from around the world and make a $25 loan directly to the small businesses of your choice, get updates on their progress, and even see the profiles of other lenders supporting that business.

Change with the seasons. Respect the natural change of the seasons when you sit down to dinner. Rather than buying products out-ofseason, shipped from far-off places, connect with a local farmer through a Community Supported Agriculture organization like Just Food . Over the course of a season, you can get 40 different types of vegetables, all locally grown. Some farmers will even take your biodegradable garbage away as compost for the crops.

Give gifts that are fairly traded. It’s more than just coffee. From soccer balls to wine to flower seeds, it’s all available online. Serve Episcopal Relief and Development’s Bishop’s Blend coffee at your next parish meeting. To see the future of fair trade, jump the pond to the British website

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

MDG report card "mixed" at halfway point

This week, the UN released the progress report on the Millennium Development Goals as we reach the halfway point to the target achievement date of 2015.

Some highlights (courtesy of our friends at ONE and DATA):

MDG 1. Poverty and Hunger
Global: The proportion of people living in extreme poverty (earning $1 a day or less) fell from 31.6% to 19.2% between 1990 and 2004. If this trend is sustained, the MDG poverty reduction target will be met for the world as a whole and for most regions.

Africa: The proportion of people living in extreme poverty has declined from 45.9% to 41.1% since 1999, but reaching the MDG target (to halve the extent of extreme poverty by 2015) requires that the current pace is nearly doubled.

2. Education
Global: Progress has been made in getting more children into school in the developing world. Enrollment in primary education grew from 80% in 1991 to 88% in 2005.

Africa: Enrollment has increased from 57% in 1999 to 70% in 2005, but a gap of 30% remains and the number of school-age children is increasing daily.

3. Gender Equality
Global: Women’s political participation has been growing slowly. Even in countries where previously only men were allowed to stand for political election, women now have a seat in parliament.

Africa: Although the share of parliamentary seats held by women has increased from 7% in 1990 to 17% in 2006, the share of women who earn a salary aside from farming still stood at less than one-third in 2005.

4. Child Mortality
Global: Child mortality rates have declined from 106 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 83 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005. It is becoming clear that the right life-saving interventions are proving effective in reducing the number of deaths due to the main child killers such as measles.

Africa: Under-five mortality rates dropped from 185 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 166 per 1,000 live births in 2005. This change barely makes a dent in the objective of a two-thirds reduction by 2015 and the region’s child mortality rate is still twice that of the developing world as a whole.

5. Maternal Health
Global: Over half a million women still die each year from treatable and preventable complications of pregnancy and childbirth.

Africa: The odds that a sub-Saharan African woman will die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth during her life are 1 in 16, compared to 1 in 3,800 in the developed world.

6. HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases
Global: The number of people dying from AIDS worldwide increased from 2.2 million in 2001 to 2.9 million in 2006, and prevention measures are failing to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic. Key interventions to control malaria have been expanded. The tuberculosis epidemic appears on the verge of decline, although progress is not fast enough to halve prevalence and death rates by 2015.

Africa: The number of people dying from AIDS continues to mount, reaching 2 million in 2006. Although prevalence rates have leveled off, the number of new cases, especially among women, and the number of people with advanced HIV infection continues to grow and is rising faster than treatment services are being scaled up. There is no evidence that the very high rate of new TB cases in sub-Saharan Africa is starting to level off.

7. Environmental Sustainability
Global: Half the population of the developing world lacks basic sanitation. In order to meet the MDG target, an additional 1.6 billion people will need access to improved sanitation over the period 2005-2015. If trends since 1990 continue, the world is likely to miss the target by almost 600 million people.

Africa: Only 42% of people in rural areas have access to clean water (according to the latest 2004 data) and 63% of the entire African population lacks access to basic sanitation facilities (down only barely from 68 % in 1990 and far from the target of cutting this portion in half by 2015).

8. Develop a Global Partnership for Development
Global: Global aid levels are decreasing, making it more difficult for programs that work to be scaled up. Debt relief is being implemented in 22 of the 40 Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) with several other countries going through the process. However improvements are still needed in poor countries’ access to export markets, opportunities to earn a living through trade, and access to new technologies.

Africa: More and better aid is needed in Africa in order to address the continent’s development challenges, including a scale-up of funding for programs that help Africa to export. This assistance should also be provided in a predictable manner in order to allow African countries to plan and execute development strategies.

Download the whole report here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Eat In to Help Out - 07/07/07

Click the map above to log your dinner party or see where other groups' donations have gone!

This week, people all over the country are hosting dinner parties for their friends as part of "Eat In to Help Out," sponsored by Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. Dinner hosts encourage their guests to bring the money they would spend if going out to eat and donate the money to an organization working with the Millennium Development Goals.

Saturday, July 7th is the halfway point to achieving the MDGs. We've made some great progress, but we still have a long way to go! These dinners are a great way for us to celebrate what has been done, reflect on what we have done in our ministries with the MDGs, and make plans for the future.

For more information, check out for more information about how to host your own dinner party. It doesn't have to be fancy - just invite some friends over for a simple dinner.

Spread the word! Watch the blog's comments and posts as people share their reflections from the dinners.