News

Australia's Anglican Primate urges support for Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, 21 May

Christians called to prayer and action in the face of the world's worst humanitarian crisis since World War II

The appeal by WCC and African Christian leaders for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine included a warning: "There is great danger that on its current course, the global response to this crisis will be hugely inadequate and will lead to unimaginable suffering and death, which is eminently avoidable."

By Mark Brolly

May 16 2017The Anglican Primate of Australia, Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier, has urged Christians to pray and give money to fight famine on 21 May, which the World Council of Churches and African Christians have declared a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine.

Christians have been urged to join a Global Day of Prayer as more than 20 million people face starvation in what the United Nations has declared the biggest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Archbishop Freier called for ongoing prayer, both on and after 21 May, as well as financial support, where possible, to the suffering communities through charities such as Anglican Overseas Aid or the Anglican Board of Mission.

“The ongoing, long-term tragedy that is famine rarely receives media coverage,” Dr Freier said. “Prayer provides an avenue of ongoing support for God’s suffering people.”

The initiative for a Global Day of Prayer came in a joint appeal by the General Secretary of the WCC, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, and the General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Revd Dr André Karamaga, with famine declared in areas of South Sudan, and Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen on the brink of famine. Millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia are suffering from drought and food shortages.

The Anglican Alliance – the international relief, development and advocacy network of the Anglican Communion, which includes Melbourne-based Anglican Overseas Aid and Australia’s Anglican Board of Mission – is a partner in the Global Day of Prayer.

AOA has an East Africa Food Crisis Appeal at https://anglicanoverseasaid.org.au/our-work/emergencies/2580-2/, while ABM launched its East Africa Famine Response, https://www.abmission.org/appeals.php/84/east-africa-famine-response, in March.

“It is hoped that this global prayer movement will prompt practical action and an urgent response to the crisis before it escalates further,” a statement on the Alliance’s website said. “As the G7 (leaders of the world’s most industrially advanced democratic nations) meet in Italy on 26-27 May 2017, Christians are encouraged to call for urgent action by making their participation in the Global Day of Prayer known and raising awareness of the crisis.”

Drs Tveit and Karamaga said in their call for a Global Day of Prayer to End Famine that the period between Easter and the Ascension was one of the most significant times in the Church calendar, a period of 40 days after Jesus' Resurrection when He lived among the people, continuing His ministry, restoring and nourishing hope and giving life with dignity.

“It is also a period, when, as people of faith, we are obliged to turn our attention, prayerfully and with dedication, to the most crying needs in our society,” they said.

“Currently, more people face famine today than any time in modern history. Famine has been declared in South Sudan. Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen are on the brink of famine.

“Globally, more than 20 million people are at risk of starvation, while millions more suffer from drought and food shortages. In this desperate situation children suffer most and become increasingly vulnerable. The UN is calling this the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945.

“There is great danger that on its current course, the global response to this crisis will be hugely inadequate and will lead to unimaginable suffering and death, which is eminently avoidable.

“We believe the churches have a prophetic role in calling to mobilising their members, the wider society and governments, and making a difference during this unprecedented period of suffering.”

The two leaders quoted from the Gospel of St Matthew, chapter 25, verse 35: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” And from Genesis 1:27: “So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

“We are not only called to respond to the needs of our sisters and brothers in dire situations in a compassionate, timely and sufficient manner,” they said. “We are also commanded to see the divine in those who are suffering and to appreciate their resilience, opinions, and solutions and to respect their dignity as we respond. May our prayers invoke the grace of God, and mobilise people to bring about peace and an end to hunger and violence!”

The CEO of World Vision Australia, Ms Claire Rogers, said the Day of Prayer was an acknowledgement that time was running out, especially for the children affected by famine.

“It’s a call for changed hearts, a caring response and an end to violence,” she said.

“Hundreds of thousands of people could die if help does not get to them fast. So far, this crisis has failed to mobilise the urgent attention and funding needed to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.”

World Vision is delivering food, water and health services in South Sudan, Somalia, and to Nigerian refugees who have fled violence to Chad and Niger. It says it has reached one million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya with humanitarian assistance and aims to reach 2.2 million. See https://www.worldvision.com.au/global-issues/world-emergencies/east-africa.

The international community has appealed for $US4.4 billion for Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. But only $US1.1 billion has been given. 

Global partners in the Day of Prayer include the Roman Catholic organisation Caritas in Veritate International, Salvation Army International, United Methodist Church Global Ministries and the World Evangelical Alliance.

The WCC portal about the Global Day of Prayer, https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/wcc-programmes/spiritual-life/global-day-of-prayer-to-end-famine, has links to resources including worship material, biblical verses, a fact sheet about the crisis and an advocacy kit for congregations, Ten Commandments of Food, which are:

I. Give thanks for the food you eat.

II. Eat food grown as close as possible to where you live.

III. Strive for all people to have knowledge about and access to affordable, nutritious food.

IV. Eat mindfully and in moderation.

V. Do not waste food.

VI. Be grateful to those who grow and prepare food for your table.

VII. Support fair wages for farmworkers, farmers and food workers.

VIII. Reduce the environmental damage of land, water and air from food production and the food system.

IX. Protect the biodiversity of seeds, soils, ecosystems and the cultures of food producers.

X. Rejoice and share the sacred gift of food with all.

The WCC fact sheet said famine was caused by many potential factors including conflict, political instability, rising food prices, drought and climate change, among others.

“Somalia is in its third year of drought causing crop failures, while South Sudan, Nigeria and Yemen are currently enduring major conflicts,” it said.

“‘Famine’ and ‘food crisis’ are technical terms. A food crisis becomes famine when 30% of the community’s population is severely malnourished and at least 2 people out of every 10,000 are dying per day.

“At the start of 2017, 108 million people across the world required lifesaving food assistance, a 35% increase from the year before.

“Conflict is the common denominator across all four countries currently facing famine.”

It said the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine was a broad coalition of church networks, denominations, faith-based organisations and concerned believers led by WCC, which represents more than 500 million Christians worldwide, and All African Conference of Churches, which represents more than 120 million Christians in the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent.