This last Sunday I hosted a global food distribution simulation with the youth of my congregation. Some had access to more than they could eat, some had access to enough to eat (although not quite as much meat as they were used to), and some did not get enough to eat. (Several ideas for hosting hunger awareness meals are available from ELCA World Hunger here.) The exercise invited conversation around food production and distribution, inequality, consumption, and so on.
At the end of the meeting as we we winding down, one of the youth (a super bright guy), suggested that we already know enough about the issues, the real trick is mobilizing to action. In general, his comment seemed apt (though I do think that there are some who need reminding of the realities of the world in which we live, and some who would identify as Christian need reminders of the commitments they made in their baptism and confirmation… but enough preaching). We live in a world that is incredibly wired. The media provides story after story (with images!) of poverty and injustice in the world. We can see and hear about the realities of hunger and poverty with the click of a mouse. We have days to remind us about crises related to the earth (April 22), malaria (April 25), food (October 16), and HIV and AIDS (December 1), to name a few. Awareness is there, the question is what to do with that awareness (for some options, see this fabulous post by Bonnie Koenig as a response to Saundra Schimmelpfennig’s “Day without Dignity” campaign).
I am not sure how to mobilize (I’m working on it though!), and there are certainly pitfalls to action for the sake of action. Moreover, the problems are complex and the solutions can be costly. Nonetheless, it seems to me that we have to move from awareness of hunger to concrete (and constructive) action against it. As a start, I suggest continued financial support of trusted organizations (like ELCA World Hunger :)) and using our voices to advocate for just policies (and the current debate about the budget it is an excellent time to challenge congress and the administration not to right the nation’s financial ship on the backs of those who are poorest and most vulnerable).
Allow me to conclude this post with some wisdom from the book of James: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
What are your thoughts? How might we better work with and on behalf of those who are hungry?