Today I received the regular email news from the Washington head office of the Baptist World Alliance: but for once this was exciting. We have a new General Secretary, Neville Callam, who is from Jamaica, and in this his first missive the shift in tone and values is stunning. He writes about poverty and hunger. He challenges us with these basic realities: some of us eat too much; many people do not have enough to eat even to survive.
This confronting and distressing article is nonetheless encouraging: we have a leader who will bring us some authentic challenges in Christian discipleship, not frightened to upset a few rather too heavy people and in doing so drives us straight back to the Gospel stories and words of Jesus. Here is what he had to say:
The BWA observes
October as Hunger Month. Why is this necessary? Let’s consider the
statistics that appear on the Bread for the World website:
million people across the world are hungry, up from 852 million a year
day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one
child every five seconds.
essence, hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals
or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food.
manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most
poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin
or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and
heightened susceptibility to illness.
in which a large portion of the population battles hunger daily are
usually poor and often lack the social safety nets other countries
enjoy, such as soup kitchens, food stamps, and job training programs.
When a family that lives in a poor country cannot grow enough food or
earn enough money to buy food, there is nowhere to turn for help.
If the church is to faithfully fulfill the mandate Christ has given us, we
have an inescapable obligation to address the situation that exists. How do
we do this?
Because of the enormity of the need, we need to determine how
to network with others to offer immediate relief. We cannot pause for debate
while the hungry are dying. We cannot refrain from action while we
contemplate and seek to justify the options open to us. Crushing problems
resulting either in denial of human dignity or in loss of life require
immediate action. For this reason, we need to act swiftly to relieve the
burden faced by the hungry, to halt the needless loss of life resulting from
their plight, to save the hungry from their despair. Yet, we must do more
than this. We also have the obligation to understand the cause of the plight
of the 854 million hungry people in the world.
What are the institutional arrangements that predispose our
societies to accommodate two opposite extremes? On the one hand, there is
abundance: people amass riches; they face the challenge of excess. They do
not know what to do with the earthly treasures they have. On the other hand,
people are caught in the clutches of despair as daily, despite their
sustained efforts, they see their children go to bed hungry at night. On
account of their plight, often displaced and forgotten, they see their
children dying one by one, and soon they die – their bodies washed up
on the sea of malnourishment.
Remember the words of our Lord who once said: “Whatever
you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me”
In the spirit of him who read from the scroll in the synagogue
let us never forsake the hungry people of our world.