This is going to be one of those postings that I will leave you to develop the threads between some images and realities.
Today, many churches were celebrating World Food Day which began on October 16, 1945, to mark the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). World Food Day is now recognized in 150 countries. Its aim is to increase awareness of global food issues and to advocate year-round action to alleviate hunger.
World Food Day in Canada follows Thanksgiving where the harvest is often celebrated and abundance is shared locally and within families. There is no “Thanksgiving” in most of the world due to historical shaping (the pilgrim story). There are harvest festivals that come at various times depending on growing seasons.
Despite 65 years of focusing on food issues internationally, we continue to have desperate needs. Food Banks Canada ‘s HungerCount (2010) reports that food bank use is at a record high, with 867, 948 Canadians relying on food banks in a one month period. Of these food bank users, 38% are children. This growing group of food bank users includes children, seniors, persons with disabilities, lone mothers and working poor. The reality is, that although food bank use has increased over 99% since 1989, 34.5% of food banks are having difficulty meeting the growing demand.
The proportion of undernourished people is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at around 30 percent of the population. In 2007, 34% of the total population of Tanzania (40.1 Million) was undernourished (endinghunger.org).
A Story: This past week I met a first year university student who had come to register at the University. Since Rev. Haule and I were going to have a quick lunch, I invited the student along. As we sat and ate, he shared some of his life, what he will be studying in University, how proud his family is of him, and how the death of his father at an early age made him rely on that family ever so much more. He came from a small village to the south-west of Dodoma but had spent many years already going to senior elementary and high school equivalents in far away places of the country. Such is the reality for these families. In order to get the education that may give them a chance to lift themselves out of abject poverty, the child is sent away from the very centering nourishment and protection of a family.
So here he was in Dodoma, with big hopes in the big city. Yet, alongside of those hopes was a grim reality that he also shared. His family had been able to send him off to University with enough money to pay for the first semester of University. He had no money to pay for neither accommodation nor food. He did not have job at this moment and limited connections to find one easily.
At the same time he was explaining this reality, there came a voice from behind me. I was sitting with my back to a grated window overlooking the street. Quickly but gently, this young man responded to this voice while simultaneously the waitress came and intervened with some authority. It took me a minute to figure out what was happening. The voice belong to a child, maybe 8 years of age. While I only heard a voice and not what was being said, this child was apparently reaching to pull on my shirt through the grate. He was asking for food.
All this was unfolding as I sat at a table with a huge plate of rice with chicken and vegetables, a bottle of water and a banana, all which I could easily afford
Mantra from yesterday’s reflection (see Readings) “ I come with my begging bowl”. Though each of as has our own unfilled bowls that we can lift to God in confidence to fill famished souls, I wonder how that feels when the other hand holds up a bowl for basic food, knowing that sometimes, maybe many times, it is left unfilled.
I am ministry personnel with The United Church of Canada interested in global relationships. I believe that these relationships have the potential to be woven as mutually beneficial in the face of the complexity of our histories, our current place in the world and our future hopes. I leave behind my congregational and wider church commitments for awhile to work alongside some of the people in Tanzania. I hope that experience will nurture and ultimately challenge all of us towards right relationships within our one earth community!
I bring along a life focused on developing creative partnerships aimed at a common good. I studied sociology, urban development and theology and have found myself always curious about the spirit of place. The place I am rooted is an oasis largely created by the Niagara Escarpment and one of it's flowing Creeks. I look forward to finding new places of spirit and rootedness in Tanzania!