Interfaith Leaders Unite Against Hunger

More than 40 heads of state representing more than 100 million people of faith will be gathering next month for an interfaith convocation that religious leaders say will be unprecedented in U.S. religious history.

More than 40 heads of state representing more than 100 million people of faith will be gathering next month for an interfaith convocation that religious leaders say will be unprecedented in U.S. religious history.

“Hunger No More,” an interfaith convocation on hunger organized by the Christian anti-hunger group Bread for the World (BFW), will bring together a host of prominent U.S. religious leaders on June 6 at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

The event, part of a larger conference in the capital, will address hunger in the United States and around the world. Participants will urge President Bush and members of Congress to join Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths in a new national commitment to ending hunger.

“If you gauge it by the diversity and the level of responsibility of the religious leaders who are involved, this event will be unprecedented in U.S. religious history,” said BFW President David Beckmann during a press conference held on Tuesday.

Rev. Beckmann, a Lutheran minister, noted that the event would be attended by leaders from numerous religious bodies including the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church, and a number of the main line Protestant denominations, as well as Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Native American leaders.

“In most cases, the representative of the religious community is the top leader of the community,” the BFW head stated. “These bodies include way more than 100 million Americans. These religious leaders are all coming together on June 6th to lead the convocation at the National Cathedral on hunger because we are scandalized, we are all scandalized by the persistence of mass hunger.

“In our time, we've been given the means to end widespread hunger,” Beckmann continued. “Eight-hundred million people in the world are still chronically under-nourished. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 36 million Americans, live in households that struggle to put food on the table. We certainly do not have to let millions of U.S. kids go hungry.

“What is mainly needed to reduce hunger is stronger commitment, especially from our government,” he said, pointing out the importance of the Government in helping the hungry in the United States and also in providing crucial leadership towards development in poor countries.

“The religious leaders who are coming together don't all share the same opinions on public policy, but most agree on the importance of improving and expanding nutrition assistance to hungry people in this country and development of systems to help hungry people in poor countries improve their livelihoods,” Beckmann said.

In speaking specifically about Christian faith and the hungry, the BFW president said, “I have never met a Christian of any theological stripe who didn't understand that Christians are called to feed the hungry and to work to make it possible for families to have enough income so that they can feed their own children.

“All sorts of Christian leaders will be joining in this interfaith convocation on hunger because whatever else we think about God, we know that true religion requires us to provide help and opportunity to hungry people,” he added.

Also speaking at the May 16 conference was H. Eric Schockman, who has served as President of the Jewish charity group MAZON since 2001.

Like Beckman, Schockman said the “convocation is really a historic signature event that has never been done before.”

"And I think what we're asking in this convocation with the strength of the interfaith demonstrative event is for people standing shoulder to shoulder on this one issue, this one issue that we all agree on, that indeed we can end hunger in America as we know it," he added.

Imam Yahya Hendi, a Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, also noted the significance of the event during the press conference, stating that “On the very first Friday in June, every mosque around the country, every mosque around the country, every Imam around the country, will be praying for the poor and will be calling upon their Muslim members to reach out to the poor, take care of the needy, and give a portion of their income for that week for the poor and the needy.

“Also we’ll be calling upon our brothers and sisters in the Muslim community, almost eight million Muslims in America, to stand with a leadership like this and to reach out to the Jewish community and to the Christian community to work together to end poverty around the world,” he added.

According to BFW’s Beckmann, the interfaith convocation is part of a host of hunger events in Washington and across the country in early June. On the day after the convocation, about 1,000 people will go to Capitol Hill to lobby Congress about protecting and improving nutrition assistance programs. The group has also requested a meeting with the White House.