The Power of Faith through Advocacy to End Hunger Everywhere
October 16, 2018
October 16 is World Food Day. It is a day when we can celebrate the strategies and commitments that have brought the world together to address one of the most noble causes there is—ending hunger. Unfortunately, this will also be the third World Food Day in a row in which we are confronted by increasing global food insecurity. Having 821 million hungry people in the world is unacceptably high, but that number is even more tragic when one considers that the world had nearly cut hunger in half between the early 1990s and 2015. We are losing ground.
Through the Sustainable Development Goals—specifically Goal 2, Zero Hunger—our global community has committed to the goal of ending hunger in all its forms by 2030. This ambitious undertaking is facing dire challenges from conflict and climate change, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations points out in detail. The only way we can hope to get back on track is through a renewed push to rally non-profits, businesses, multilateral organizations, governments, and other global leaders to commit to ending hunger everywhere. Within this global campaign, people and organizations of faith have a huge part to play—especially through advocacy.
From Islamic Relief USA organizing Qurbani events leading up to Eid al-Adha right here in the United States, to groups such as Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief on the front lines of agricultural development and nutrition every day in the developing world, religious organizations are wonderful at inspiring faith into action for the sake of millions. However, faith-based organizations are also in a unique position to energize and mobilize vast constituencies around the cause of food security. This mobilization can take many different forms, but advocacy may be the most powerful action that these millions of individuals can take.
My own organization, the Alliance to End Hunger, has the mission of building the public and political will to end hunger at home and abroad. We do this through partnering our member organizations across sectors to speak with one voice to advocate for solutions to food insecurity. However, the true power of our advocacy work is through our members’ abilities to spur their own networks of followers into action. In many cases, it is faith-based organizations that have not only the largest and most robust networks behind them, but also the some of the most motivated individuals seeking to take on issues of social justice in the world. For example, the alliance’s sister organization—Bread for the World—boasts connections with thousands of churches throughout the United States that can lead to countless advocacy opportunities to address issues of poverty and hunger. And this is just one Christian organization.
The global rallying power of religious institutions is powerful as well. But there are powerful ways for even small religious organizations to make a big advocacy impact. All around the world mosques, churches, synagogues, and other places of worship can serve as rallying points for community partnerships to end hunger at a local level. These institutions can draw valuable attention to hunger in our own backyards. Further, through partnerships with local businesses, food banks, and non-profits, coalitions can serve as megaphones for the needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
At the most fundamental level, however, are the everyday advocacy actions that can be taken by individual people of faith. Most legislators in the United States Congress identify as people of faith, and the advocacy actions of the larger faith community can have real impact on critical decisions made at a national level. These actions can be something as simple as an email or phone call, to meeting with a legislator in person or hosting a town hall. There are many other ways for people of faith to make their voices heard, not least of which is at the ballot box.
The advocacy power of both people and organizations of faith are instrumental to our collective goal to end hunger everywhere. We must do everything we can to equip these institutions and leaders with the tools and resources they need to affect real change here at home and around the world.