When Were You Hungry?

As I flew into Nairobi, I accessed a local television news item showing schoolchildren during their morning school break, digging up plant roots to supplement their meagre diets in Meru County in northern Kenya.

There is a famine of biblical proportions taking place in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan that is intensifying outside of the vision of most Western Christians. This cataclysmic event is being ignored by the Western press as not yet newsworthy enough to be placed as a high priority for the nations or their multinational agencies, such as the United Nations World Food Organisation.

How is it that over 22 million people can be facing the looming threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, and we do not see them?  They are invisible, as our television screens and other communication devices are awash with news and documentaries of the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II and the political shenanigans of the British Conservative party leadership struggles.

Two years of no rain — that is the absence of four seasons of short and long rains — is the reality in the Horn of Africa. This climatic catastrophe is further exacerbated by decades of conflict, mass displacement and severe economic challenges.

Each day, as delayed rains worsen the extreme drought in the Horn of Africa, more livestock are dying; food is harder to come by; children are dropping out of schools; andhealth centres are filling with mothers and their severely malnourished children.

Pastural communities, faced by the worst drought in half of a century, are pushing their livestock further south to greener pastures. They are encountering farmers whose crops are being eaten by the pasturing animals, and this is leading to ethnic clashes in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia.

Churches amongst the African and Caribbean communities in the UK have a responsibility to raise the call for urgent action by governments and international agencies to avert this looming crisis. Some church leaders are beginning to respond to the invisible suffering of the people of the Horn of Africa.

When Jesus spoke to the disciples in Matthew 25, He articulated the experiences of millions of God’s children who are hungry and thirsty, imprisoned and invisible. How is it that international development issues such as the above never make it to our prayer meetings, Bible studies, preachments and worship convocations?  It’s because they don’t fit in well with our desire for a ‘spirituality without warts’ — similar to our consumeristic desire for supermarket bananas without black spots on the skins.

The further away we can fill our lives with the good living we wish for ourselves — even if it is at the expense of our brothers and sisters overseas — the more we can bolster our ego that we are “blessed and highly favoured”. We need a new consciousness that must also allow global needs to become our issues, taking a higher priority on our agendas. This consciousness should start with a frank discussion between Black-majority churches in the UK and faith-based development agencies, who claim to be representing us and spending our missions and aid finances.

Rev Ronald A. Nathan is the Caribbean Consultant to the National Church Leaders Forum (UK) and Director of the Commission on Relief and Development of the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean and the World Politics Editor of the Star of Zion Newspapers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *