Bernard White, Campaigns Volunteer from the Southwark diocese, shares his experience of the launch:
I was fortunate to be able to attend the launch meeting at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday 10 November 2012. The hall was packed and everyone was very enthusiastic and friendly. The Campaigns team had done a wonderful job getting so many volunteers to help us and tell us where everything was, and there was a wonderful display of very useful resources for us to take away.
After a brief but hearty welcome by Maria Elena (CAFOD campaigns coordinator), Bishop John Arnold led a thoughtful and moving opening liturgy, and I was surprised and encouraged by the exuberance of the singing, sufficiently to raise my own voice above its usual mumble. Bishop John’s introduction emphasised the outward looking aspects of our Faith and how the Gospels (his favourite is Mark) inspire us to act for the benefit of people suffering from the effects of poverty and injustice.
Clare Lyons, head of CAFOD Campaigns, explained some of the background to the Hungry for Change Campaign, showing us an animation about the global food system, how food reaches our plates, and how the system needs to change. Clare emphasised that one in eight people in the world lack enough food to eat while there is enough food produced for no-one to go hungry. The world’s food system does not work but it is complex and there is no simple solution. Nevertheless, taking two small steps at this time will start the process of change.
That is why Hungry for Change is asking the Prime Minister and the UK Government to use its 2013 presidency of the G8 to increase aid to empower small farmers, the majority of whom are women, who produce more than 50 per cent of the food in the developing world, to obtain better, and fairer, prices for their produce. This will enable them, and their communities to earn more and be able to afford the food they and their families need.
The second small step is to persuade the G8 countries to legislate to require the relatively few multinational companies who control the world’s food distribution system to be publicly accountable, so that their policies, and in particular, the lobbying they do to governments, which affects the food system and those who work in it in its supply chains, and people’s human rights, are accessible to the public.
Also speaking with Clare about the world food system and the need for Hungry for Change was Fr Joe Komakoma from Zambia. Fr Joe is currently working in Uganda where he is Deputy General Secretary of SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar). He is in charge of the Evangelisation Department. He is, therefore, involved in both administration and pastoral activities. Fr Joe was able to add greatly to our understanding with real examples about the situations of small farmers of which he has experience.
Six workshops were provided for us to attend in our groups, which we joined when we arrived. Each of the workshops gave me very helpful information and inspired me, and I enjoyed each of them. They demonstrated the huge amount of knowledge and experience there is within CAFOD.
One of the workshops was given by theologian, David McLoughlin, who had also spoken earlier to all of us. David explained the meaning of the gospels in the context of the life and times of Jesus and of the culture then current. In this way, I found it possible to gain a deeper and sometimes different but more meaningful understanding of Jesus’ teachings. In particular, I was stimulated by David’s interpretation of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 as a miracle of people sharing what they had so that everyone had enough.
Another workshop which made an impact on me was Dominic Goggins’ about political activism, and, in particular, about CAFOD’s MP Correspondents. It’s very easy to assume that a letter from me to my MP is not going to make much of a difference, but it is a fact that letters from CAFOD MP Correspondents are effective. Dominic cited the recent case of the implementation of the provisions of the Climate Change Act which many in big business had lobbied the government hard to defer. Letters from CAFOD supporters were instrumental in securing its implementation without any delay.
Overall, I came away from the conference enthusiastic to begin campaigning about Hungry for Change.
Bernard White, 13 November 2012
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