The following is a reflection by the CCC’s new Faith & Public Life intern, the Rev. Jeffrey Metcalfe.
Hunger is not acceptable
Hunger is the headache
a young girl feels
as she struggles to pay attention in school.
Hunger is the choice
a man has to make
in order to sleep under a roof.
Hunger is the humiliation
a mother bears
when she picks up her groceries at a church.
Hunger is the pain
a toddler suffers
—he doesn’t know why.
Hunger is the 833,000
young girls, men, mothers, and toddlers
who use the food bank each month in Canada.
But hunger is not acceptable.
We can end hunger in Canada.
We have a plan.
And the federal government should have a plan too.
The United Nations, the Senate, and a House of Commons Standing Committee have all called on Canada to develop a national anti-poverty plan to end the causes of hunger in our country. In response to this call people in poverty, faith groups, organizations, academics, and others came together to develop “Dignity for All: a national anti-poverty plan for Canada,” a model national anti-poverty plan, with the hope that this model would encourage and aid the federal government in developing its own plan. So far, no official national anti-poverty plan has been made.
It’s time we changed that.
As Canadian Christians, addressing the causes of poverty in our country is not optional; it is an imperative of our faith. In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explicitly identifies a person’s faithfulness to God in how that person responds to “the least of these”—whether a person feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, welcomes foreigners, clothes the naked, looks after the sick, and visits prisoners. In other words, faithfulness to God calls us to be attentive to the needs of the impoverished and marginalized within our society, and to address those needs.
The Prophet Isaiah suggests that this faithfulness is not solely a call to personal action, but that it requires a political program, one he claims that could help restore strength and vitality to a society:
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in. (Isaiah 58.9b-12)
According to Isaiah, removing the yoke of oppressive conditions, restructuring a society so that no one goes hungry, benefits not only those who find themselves at the margins, it benefits everyone. Poverty impoverishes us all, and so by creating systems that address the causes of poverty, so too are we all enriched. We become “repairers of the breach” helping to restore “streets to live in.”
As communities formed by the words of Jesus and the prophets, we believe that a national plan to address poverty in Canada will help to guide us in the common task of rebuilding our foundations so that the needs of “the least of these” are met, that we may all be made stronger together.
October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day when we acknowledge that ending poverty is not just an ideal goal, but a real possibility. As the recent faith leaders statement, On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada makes clear, faith communities in Canada have already demonstrated their commitment to the reality of this goal, pledging to “continue to deliver services and programs to hungry Canadians, provide shelter to the homeless, and settlement resources to newcomers.” Likewise, they “respectfully call upon our government to develop, legislate and implement a federal plan for poverty elimination that complements provincial and territorial plans.”
Hunger is not acceptable, and poverty in Canada is not inevitable. By working together as faith communities, citizens, and various levels of government, we can eradicate poverty in Canada.
For more information on how you can get involved, please visit the Chew on This! campaign website. Click here to read the faith leaders statement On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada Faith Communities in Canada Speak Out in its entirety. Finally please keep all the “least of these” who are struggling with poverty in your prayers, and pray also for our political leaders: that through their leadership, we may together “raise up the foundations of many generations.”
The Canadian Council of Churches is a signatory to Dignity for All: The Campaign for a Poverty-free Canada.