Q&A: Hopeful for ‘hunger no more’



e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service
      
 

Q&A: Hopeful for ‘hunger no more’

By Derek Maul | June 15, 2010 {1184}

LAKELAND — More than 1,700 lay and clergy members attending the 2010 Florida Annual Conference Event not only heard about the issues of poverty and hunger around the world, but they also had a chance to do something about it.

The Rev. David Beckmann tells laity and clergy eradicating extreme poverty really is possible, through faith-based, bipartisan political advocacy efforts. During the last three to four decades, they’ve resulted in 500 million fewer people living in poverty and 21,000 fewer children dying daily from preventable causes. “The remaining carnage (children’s deaths) is a damn scandal,” he said. “But the changes we’ve seen in recent decades is a miracle.” Photo by Dave Summerill. Photo #10-1474. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, was the keynote speaker June 10 at the opening session of the nearly three-day event, convened under the theme “Transforming the World by Eradicating Extreme Poverty.”

Bread for the World helps members of churches and other organizations organize to change policies and programs that perpetuate hunger. And Beckmann says it’s making progress, thanks to groups like The United Methodist Church.

During the session, hundreds of conference participants wrote letters to their local House representatives, asking them to urge Congress to fully fund the federal international affairs budget, which provides funding for hunger-, poverty- and disease-prevention programs abroad. It was one immediate step laity and clergy could take to make a dent in global poverty.

In a conversation with e-Review after his message, Beckmann explained the challenges of ridding the world of extreme poverty altogether and why he’s optimistic it can be done.

What excites you about events such as this one?
In my thinking we really need a more active constituency for hungry people. We have enormous opportunities for change, but the normal political process is not going to achieve those changes. So where is that going to come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit — people being moved by God to speak out. This group (Florida United Methodist Conference) is a more likely vanguard for the constituency that we need than any other group I can imagine.

What do you think holds Christians back?
We’re busy with our own lives, and we can have a lack of generosity — we’re preoccupied with ourselves. On top of it a sense that it’s too complicated, it’s too far away, and how do I know I can make a difference? All those are excuses or reasons why people don’t step forward to help make the big changes.

Lay and clergy members take a step forward in the fight to end global hunger by writing letters to their House representatives, asking them to urge Congress to fully fund the federal international affairs budget, which provides funding for hunger-, poverty- and disease-prevention programs abroad. Photo by Angie Bechanan. Photo #10-1475. Click on picture for larger photo or view in photo gallery with longer description.

Are you experiencing a sense of accomplishment? Do people get it?
Yes, but we need more. However, over the last 18 months we have seen changes. When the Obama administration came to power, they didn’t want to work on foreign assistance reform, and we got Bread for the World members to get their congressional members agitated, and the House and the Senate took action. We’ve got some pushing to do, but we’re on the brink of having the President and Secretary of State announce basic directions and indicate they want to work with Congress. These things take time, but already we’ve seen an elevation of development as a foreign policy priority in the U.S. and major efforts to strengthen development agencies. The World Hunger Initiative is great, and the administration is taking steps to make aid better coordinated and more responsive — to make aid work. All this translates into big changes.

Are people making the connection between policy and ‘the man on the street’?
They have to do their homework. If they join Bread for the World and stick with us for a year, they’ll see that they’re changing things. It takes a while to see, “Oh, I did that!”

Are you optimistic?
I’m hopeful. I think the progress that’s been made is reason for optimism. In addition, I believe in resurrection. I believe that God means to take us to a day when there will be hunger no more.

What do you see as the biggest challenge?
To get the word out. To communicate more broadly. To engage and stir up a constituency of faith and conscience that will seize the opportunities of the moment.

So what do you think of these United Methodists?
I love The United Methodist Church! I think Methodists understand the connections between Jesus and justice. Methodists have been supportive of Bread for the World and similar organizations for decades. Mostly, I feel gratitude and respect for The United Methodist Church.

Information about Bread for the World is available at http://www.bread.org.

Related story

Hunger relief president calls on members to leverage citizenship

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Maul is an author and freelance writer based in Valrico, Fla.




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