Hungry For Change? Take action with CAFOD!

Emily Mbithuka “I managed to feed my family by eating very little”
[Photo: CAFOD]

This Saturday saw the launch of the Hungry for Change campaign, at a special conference at Westminster Cathedral. CAFOD Southwark’s campaigns coordinator, Bernard White, explores the campaign in more detail:

What can we do?

What are you willing to do to help Emily Mbithuka feed her family? She says “I managed to feed my family by eating very little…….the older children accepted hunger and skipped lunch.” Emily farms in the Kitui region of Kenya which has been struck by drought. Five million children under five die every year from a lack of food, and a billion people across the world do not have sufficient to eat even though we produce enough food to feed everyone.

So, are you willing to take a minute or two to send an email or a postcard to those who have the power and wherewithal to change the situation? Would you be willing to take other simple actions to help? How much of your time are you willing to give up? As long as it takes to make a cup of tea, or look at the adverts during a 30 minute television show? Or maybe longer? Whatever your choice, we will not ask for much of your time.

What does our Faith teach us?

As CAFOD supporters, we are all committed to helping others and we know that this is what Jesus meant when he said that the greatest commandment of all is to love God and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. As St John tells us, loving God and our neighbour are one and the same thing, because we cannot claim to love God if we don’t love our neighbour.

And, of course, this love is practical. Pope John Paul II told us that solidarity is not a feeling, but it involves taking action.

What kind of action?

After the overwhelming amount you donated to our Lent appeal for Water, who could doubt the generosity of CAFOD supporters and the wonderful benefits that will be provided to some of those who lack clean water and safe sanitation facilities?

Yet the nature, scale and complexity of the causes of hunger are such that our money will not be enough on its own. Here are some examples:

  • Emily has to sell her produce to a shopkeeper who sells it on at vastly greater prices. She has no choice. Unfortunately, our money cannot produce alternative buyers for Emily to make it possible for her to negotiate fair prices.
  • Major global companies have virtually all the power in the food markets, which militates against small producers and farmers, who represent the main ways that people in developing countries make a living.
  • Markets are also distorted by subsidies and other pricing policies and actions taken by wealthy countries to support their own, which have the effect of damaging businesses in developing countries and sometimes wipe them out.

These and many other impediments to people in developing countries prevent them being able to make a living and it requires action to be taken by major companies, governments, international organisations and others.

We need to act together

This means persuasion, and one of the most powerful means of persuasion is public opinion. As individuals and CAFOD supporters, we will be asking you to get behind and support the various actions which CAFOD will be proposing during the campaign which will last until the end of 2013.

Most of the things we will do will be simple and take very little of our time, but the effects could be significant. For example, former Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, wrote to CAFOD about the recent water campaign, saying “I received a huge amount of correspondence from CAFOD supporters. …..It is truly shocking that even today over 780 million people do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion people do not have proper sanitation…These statistics led to my decision to double the already ambitious commitment on water and sanitation that we [the government] made last year.” How effective was that!

Of course, expressions of public opinion have to be huge in order to be effective. As Christians, we can reach, at least, the 100,000 weekly mass-goers in our parishes in Southwark Archdiocese. Please will you speak to fellow mass goers, and as a CAFOD parish coordinator, please will you try to organise as many people as possible in your parish take our simple actions, such as card signings. This is likely to mean that you will have to talk with your priest and maybe other parish organisations, such as Justice & Peace groups. If you are unsure about doing this or you don’t think that you can do it, or if you are refused permission, or if you want to discuss anything, please let me know by email bwhite@cafod.org.uk, by telephone, 07919446770 or you can write to me at CAFOD’s Southwark office.

I would really like to hear from you about your reaction to the actions we ask you to take during this campaign.

For more info, check out the video below and the CAFOD website.

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