Sunday, May 14, 2017

Millions Face Starvation, But Does Anyone Give a Shit?

African Christians call for day of prayer to end famine May 21 

“I have three things I’d like to say today,” said American author Tony Campolo to a crowd at the 1982 interdenominational Spring Harvest church conference in England.

“First, while you were sleeping last night, 45,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition.

“Second, most of you don’t give a shit.

“Third, what’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I said ‘shit’ than the fact that 45,000 kids died last night.”

Campolo’s words—for which he became infamous—come back to me as I think about the terrible food crisis in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and parts of Kenya and Nigeria.

An estimated 20 million people face starvation in those countries, the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945 according to the UN.

And it’s not as if this came out of nowhere; the disaster has been forecast for many months. And yet, for the longest time, it seemed as though the world—to use Campolo’s words—didn’t give a shit.

Except for a bit of media coverage here and there, there was virtually nothing about it in the media. 

There are several reasons for this—it’s hard for the media to get into the worst-affected regions, and they don’t have the resources they used to.

Then there’s the Trump effect; the new President, and his unpredictable ways, has sucked up much of the media oxygen.

Added to this is the general fatigue everyone feels over the extended Syria crisis; will it never end?

Two groups that are trying to break the silence are the All Africa Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. The two groups have issued a call for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine on Sunday, May 21.

Noting that “more people face famine today than any time in modern history,” the groups are calling for prayer for an end to the hunger, and to the conflict that is causing so much of the need.

“Churches have a prophetic role in calling to mobilize their members, the wider society, and governments, and making a difference during this unprecedented period of suffering,” they state, adding that “food is more than a human right; it is a divine gift that cannot be impeded.”

Since that is the Sunday of the May long weekend in Canada, it’s possibly the worst time for a day of prayer in this country—attendance at worship services will be lower than usual. But people can still pray at the cottage, the lake or the beach.

Of course, it’s not just Christians who can pray; anyone, of any faith, can do so. When it comes to asking God to help end the suffering, we’re all in this together.

But what to pray? The Global Day of Prayer website has some resources on its website, as does Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

But if you want a simple one you can use, good for anyone of any religion, here’s a prayer from the aid group Christian Aid:

God of all grace, hold all those who are hungry in your infinite love.
Be with those for whom the earth’s resources have run dry;
Be with those who must walk for miles to find their daily bread;
Be with those for whom survival is a fragile hope.
And be with us, as we read the stories of those who bear such acute suffering;
Give us hearts of compassion to respond in your service,
So that together we may see restoration where there is pain,
And all may rejoice in your goodness.

To that we can all say, "Amen" and, "yes, I give a shit."

From the May 13 Winnipeg Free Press.

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