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United Methodists advocate for hunger awareness

 


 

June 8, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Allison Scahill*

United Methodists joined with some 1,500 other Christians in Washington to advocate for hunger awareness.

They were participants in "Hunger No More: An Interfaith Convocation," sponsored June 6 by Bread for the World at the National Cathedral in Washington. Bread for the World's partners include the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and it receives support through the church's Advance giving program.

Jim Winkler, chief executive for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said he met that day with Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, to express concern about the budget that was passed by Congress and the cuts that social service programs face.

"We also wanted to express to him our appreciation for his recognition that the budget is a moral document and his statement to that effect on the floor of the Senate," Winkler told United Methodist News Service. "We also tried to meet with Sen. Frist but once again were unable to arrange a meeting with him."

Winkler said the meeting with Reid seemed more like a pastoral call. "I think that Sen. Reid feels rather disappointed by the bitterness that's taking place these days in the Senate," he added.

Winkler also met with White House officials on June 7 to discuss President Bush's role in the fight to end hunger.

"In this case, we were calling on the president to support the new Hunger-Free Communities Act and to fight against those cuts in food and nutrition programs and to support further debt relief and assistance for poor countries, particularly Africa," he said.

"Our next step is really to work with our coalition partners, which include other denominations and faith groups as well as organizations such as Bread for the World and America's Second Harvest … to try to see to it that food stamp programs and other nutrition programs are not cut."

Jan Love, chief executive of the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was unable to attend the convocation, but said the division has a two-pronged approach to poverty and hunger.

"One is that we offer charity and mercy to those who are the least of these and who suffer problems associated with poverty and hunger," she said. "So, we offer institutions and programs that deliver goods directly to those who need them. We have lots of mission institutions across the country, for example, that provide child care for children and meals for the elderly and other forms of direct service to poor people.

"But we also enter into the work of advocacy to change public policy that help cause these problems in the first place, so we would always be in the business of mercy and charity to people all over the world. But some of those people can take care of themselves better if government policy operates more to their benefit rather than their detriment."

Love said organizations such as Bread for the World and United Methodist Committee on Relief do a good job of keeping the Women's Division informed and involved with hunger-related issues.

United Methodists can play a large role to support the hunger awareness cause through prayer and works of charity, mercy and justice, Winkler said.

He urged church members to visit his church and society's Web site, www.umc-gbcs.org, and click on the "UM Power" button, "where they can be in touch with members of Congress, as well as the president, or be in touch with their own local officials and call for full funding, and no cuts, to food and nutrition programs as well as more livable wages for all people who are working and for health insurance for everybody."

About 65 United Methodists also were among the more than 600 participants at a June 4-7 conference called "One Table, Many Voices: A Mobilization to End Poverty and Hunger" in the Washington area.

*Scahill, a mass communications major at United Methodist-related Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., is an intern with the Convergence Team at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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