WASHINGTON – Some 700 Christians this weekend were urged to not give up in the fight against world hunger, but rather rise up and urge their government to take stronger actions to end hunger.
Believers have gathered from across the nation for The Gathering 2007, organized by Bread for the World and the Alliance to End Hunger, in partnership with Christian denominations and religious organizations. The June 9-12 event seeks to inform and mobilize Christians to work together to build the movement to end hunger.
"I think all Christian people have experienced the goodness of God and it is that experience of God's goodness and care that sustains us and makes us want to reach out and change the world and help hungry people in serious ways," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, on Sunday.
Bread for the World is an anti-poverty Christian movement that lobbies lawmakers to pass legislations that alleviate hunger in the United States and worldwide.
In developing countries, six million children die each year, mostly from hunger-related causes. Moreover, more than 850 million people go to bed hungry each night, according to Bread for the World.
In the United States, the world's wealthiest nation, 35 million people – including more than 12.4 million children – struggle to eat every day. In other words, one in ten households in the United States are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.
"The reality is that we don't need more than an additional $75 billion to meet all the goals in all of the countries by 2015," said Salil Shetty, director of the U.N. Millennium Campaign, at the event.
Shetty was referring to the estimated $75 billion in additional development assistance needed each year from all the rich nations to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut global poverty in half by 2015. The U.S. would be responsible for about $25 billion.
"If the G-8 can't find the money last week, then where did they find the $900 billion for arms sales," he questioned to an applauding crowd. "If the G-8 could not find the money last week, then where did they find the $300 billion or more spent last year on Iraq alone."
The U.N. Millennium Campaign director said grassroots Christian leaders are "so powerful" in the fight against hunger because politicians care about being re-elected and Christian citizens hold the power to vote them into office.
Lawrence Temfwe, co-chair of Micah Challenge Zambia and director of the Jubilee Center in Zambia, witnessed how Christians caring about hunger and poverty in their country can lead people to Christ.
Jubilee Center in Zambia seeks to mobilize Christian and communities in the country to have a voice in their government to improve their communities.
Temfwe told a story about a non-Christian community leader in Zambia who said to a fellow church leader while working together for the betterment of their communities:
"I didn't know the church was interested in sanitation. I didn't know that the church was interested in what kind of water we drink. I didn't know the church was interested in what kind of roads are in our communities," recalled the Jubilee Center in Zambia director. "Had you told me this, I would have become a Christian a long time ago."
The man who said this is now a Christian, according to Temfwe.
Shetty ended his speech with a call to action. "Our brothers in Africa, our sisters in Asia and everyone in Latin America are holding their own government accountable. We have big problems with these governments as well, so don't think it's only yours. But we are doing our parts and we need you to do yours," he said
"We are indeed the first generation that can end poverty but the fact is we are not just running out of time but we are also running out of excuses," Shetty concluded.
On Monday, a large interfaith anti-hunger convocation expecting thousands of participants will be held at the Washington National Cathedral. The Gathering 2007 will end Tuesday with a lobby day on Capitol Hill.