-- Rudelmar Bueno de Faria has been named general secretary of ACT Alliance, an international ecumenical partner organization of the Church of the Brethren and Brethren Disaster Ministries. He will begin his term on June 1. An ACT release noted that he “brings a wealth of experience to the position, having served for 25 years with the World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, and Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession in Brazil. He currently serves as the WCC’s representative to the United Nations where he has engaged in advocacy, diplomacy, negotiations, and relations with key people in the UN system, member states, CSOs, and ecumenical and interfaith networks. Prior to this position, he spent many years with LWF in a variety of roles in the World Service in Geneva and San Salvador.” Rudelmar will succeed John Nduna, who has served as general secretary of the ACT Alliance since its founding in 2010.
-- Religions for Peace USA is hiring an executive director. “Religions for Peace USA envisions a nation in which people of faith and goodwill live together in respect and mutual support, creating paths to peace and justice,” said the announcement of the job opening. “Religions for Peace USA's mission is to inspire and advance common actions for peace through multireligious cooperation among our nation's religious communities.” The executive director is the organization’s primary organizer and administrator, working to coordinate a bold, shared witness for peace and justice among member religious communities and to provide a moral compass in the religiously pluralistic context of the United States. Learn more at www.idealist.org/view/job/kdTCmb5zTFsP .
-- Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne, Ind., earlier this month sharing a concern about proposed legislation in Indiana, IN Senate bill SB309, that would have dramatically impacted the ability of the church to use its solar panels. The story of Beacon Heights’ solar panels was featured in “Messenger” magazine’s April 2016 issue, and the church has been asking for support in contacting state elected officials about the detrimental effects of the proposed legislation. “For us, this is a matter of faith,” said a statement from pastor Brian Flory. “This is a matter of shining our light and helping our public officials to understand the moral importance of letting our faith community live out the value of being good stewards of God’s creation.” This week, an Indiana Senate committee made changes to the bill that would mitigate some of the worst of its effects on organizations such as Beacon Heights, that have installed solar panels with the expectation of significant savings in energy use and expense. See the Indianapolis Star report at www.indystar.com/story/news/2017/02/16/solar-energy-incentives-gradually-reduced-under-indiana-senate-proposal/97986312 .
-- Camp Eder near Fairfield, Pa., is holding a Maple Madness Pancake Breakfast on Feb. 25 and March 4, partnering with Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve. Cost is $8 for adults, $4 for children. “Come to Camp Eder to learn about ‘Sugaring,’ the process of turning the sap from Maple trees into delicious Maple syrup!” said an invitation. “Strawberry Hill naturalists will demonstrate how to tap a Maple tree, collect the sap, and boil it down into syrup. You can also enjoy the fruits of our labor by sampling real Maple syrup at a pancake breakfast.” Also featured will be local arts and crafts vendors.
-- Camp Harmony near Hooversville, Pa., is offering a “House of Prayer” retreat on April 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Come and get away for time with the Lord and other brothers and sisters in Christ,” said an announcement. Dave and Kim Butts are the speakers. The cost is $15, which includes lunch and snacks and .5 continuing education credits for ministers. Register by March 1 by contacting Western Pennsylvania District, 115 Spring Rd., Hollsopple, PA 15935.
-- A class on “Leadership and Culture: Building Bridges” at the University of La Verne is the subject of a podcast published by radio station KPCC 89.3. The university is a Church of the Brethren-related school in La Verne, Calif. The class enrolls students from the University of La Verne and CETYS University in the Tijuana area of Mexico. The link for the story, “Amid heated politics, college class brings together US, Mexico students,” was shared by the Pacific Southwest District office: http://www.scpr.org/news/2017/02/16/69095/amid-heated-politics-college-class-brings-together .
-- Bread for the World is reporting that despite gains, African Americans are still disproportionately affected by hunger and poverty. “Over the past year, African Americans have seen significant decreases in hunger and poverty levels, with a nearly 5 percentage point drop in hunger alone. Much of these declines are due to effective federal policy and strong community leadership,” said a release. “However, much more must be done.” Despite the recent gains, however, almost 50 percent of all black children younger than age 6 still live in poverty, which is more than three times the proportion of young white children. “Unemployment and low wages, lack of access to healthy and affordable food, poor schools, and higher incarceration rates are just a few of the factors that contribute to this problem,” the release said. “While African-Americans make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 22 percent of those experiencing poverty and hunger.” Download the report “Hunger and Poverty in the African-American Community” at www.bread.org/factsheet . Bread for the World recently released a new graphic, “I Still Rise,” highlighting African-American contributions to ending hunger and poverty over the past century; find it at www.bread.org/rise .
-- A quarterly report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has been gaining media attention for reporting an increase in the number of American hate groups, particularly anti-Muslim groups. This is “fueled in part by the recent presidential election,” said an article in the Washington Post, which noted that “many of the groups the SPLC identified as part of the rise in extremist activity reject the label of ‘hate group.’” However, the newspaper also noted findings that “hate groups in the United States nearly tripled, from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year. Nearly 50 of those new additions are local chapters of ACT for America, an anti-Muslim activist group.... Diminished are the overt Ku Klux Klan robes and Nazi insignia sometimes associated with extremist hate groups: the number of KKK chapters fell 32 percent, and the use of symbols has diminished in favor of a more ‘intellectual’ approach....” The Post also cited an FBI report of a 60 percent rise in hate crimes targeting Muslims in 2015. Find the Washington Post article at www.washingtonpost.com/national/southern-poverty-law-center-says-american-hate-groups-are-on-the-rise/2017/02/15/7e9cab02-f2d9-11e6-a9b0-ecee7ce475fc_story.html .
In a review of the SPLC report by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the increase of hate groups was characterized as anti-semitic. “At least 550 of the 917 groups are anti-Semitic in nature,” the article said, in part. “The groups active in 2016 include 99 categorized as neo-Nazi, 100 as white nationalist, 130 as Ku Klux Klan, and 21 as Christian Identity, a religious movement that says whites are the true Israelites and Jews are descended from Satan.” Find the article at www.jta.org/2017/02/15/news-opinion/united-states/number-of-us-hate-groups-rose-in-2016-and-most-are-anti-semitic-civil-rights-center-finds .
-- Todd Flory, a Church of the Brethren member who works at Wheatland Elementary School in Wichita, Kan., is one the teachers featured by National Public Radio (NPR) in “5 Ways Teachers Are Fighting Fake News.” Author Sophia Alvarez Boyd writes, “As the national attention to fake news and the debate over what to do about it continue, one place many are looking for solutions is in the classroom. Since a recent Stanford study showed that students at practically all grade levels can't determine fake news from the real stuff, the push to teach media literacy has gained new momentum.” Flory is working with a teacher in Irvine, Calif., teaming up their fifth grade classes to do “a fake news challenge via Skype,” the piece reported. “Flory’s fourth-graders chose two real articles and wrote a fake article of their own. Then, they presented them to Bedley’s class in California. The fifth-graders had four minutes to do some extra research based on the presentations, and then they decided which article out of the three were fake.” See www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/02/16/514364210/5-ways-teachers-are-fighting-fake-news .