By Charles Kwuelum
I recently received a call from a friend who is an international development worker in one of the countries in the Sahel region of Africa. He told me about a group of young children who for a while were identified only as numbers in U.N.-run camps because their parents or guardians had died as a result of war, disease or malnutrition. The children face the same fate. For a moment, we broke down in tears as my friend and I mourned the lives cut short by violence and the unsecured future of the children who lack the basic amenities of life, education and family.
The terrible hunger, water scarcity, health and humanitarian crises in various countries makes my heart burn with passion, exhibiting that divinely-ignited hope that God is timely in favor, covenant and salvation. Sometimes, such situations are not only outcomes of war and conflict, but also natural disaster, poverty and unfair policies. The life of the church in missions is expressed, in part, by the prophetic zeal put into relief, development and peace work (Luke 4:18-19; Isaiah 42:1). It is a way of life to which we have all been called to participate, and we are filled with the sure hope that our efforts can help reduce protracted humanitarian crises that are deepening by the day.
One small way in which we can work to ensure that people’s basic needs are met is by supporting reforms to U.S. food assistance programs. We must therefore call on Congress to support and pass into law the reintroduced Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 525).
If passed into law, the bill would:
- Make food aid more cost effective by allowing the purchase of more commodities locally or regionally, as well as the use of vouchers and cash transfers;
- Save about $50 million per year in shipping costs and shorten the shipping time;
- Remove the policy of ‘monetization,’ a process that allows U.S. donated food to be sold first by aid organizations, producing cash that then funds development projects. This policy causes the loss of 25 cents out of every dollar. Ending monetization would free up an estimated $30 million per year, feeding an additional 800,000 people.
At the end of my conversation with my friend, I felt an extraordinary kind of assurance together with a deep sense of lively and unfailing hope for the great mission of meeting the needs of communities torn apart by hunger and violence.
In order to be faithful followers of Christ who would inherit the Kingdom, we must heed the call to attend to the needy in acts of mercy by ensuring access to enough food, improvement of farming techniques and fairer trade policies (Matthew 25:31-46). When we raise our voices and translate the prophetic zeal of our hearts through congregational prayers and calls to our representatives in Congress, we seek to bring dignity and hope to millions of people through food, relief and development provided in a modest and dignifying manner.
Charles Kwuelum is Legislative Associate for International Affairs in the MCC U.S. Washington office.
Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting congressional developments and detailing ways the church can continue to be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy.