On Tuesday, Dec. 10 at noon in each time zone in the world, millions of people stopped to pray for an end to global hunger. The Rev. Diane Ford Dessables, an ordained United Church of Christ minister and senior associate for national church relations for Bread for the World, was one ripple in the ecumenical "wave of prayer" that made its way around the world and brought together people from all religious and political backgrounds to advocate for a single cause.
"Hunger is one of the few things that everyone can come together around," Ford Dessables said. "We had people from the far left, the far right and everything in between."
The prayer wave to end hunger launched the "One Human Family, Food for All" campaign organized by Caritas Internationalis, an international confederation of Catholic charities in the Vatican, and was supported by Pope Francis. While prayer services took place throughout the world, Ford Dessables attended an event at the U.S. Capitol Building. About 50 faith and congressional leaders were present in the crowded room and participated in a mass prayer. Ford Dessables was one of a dozen participants who also shared an original prayer, through which she called for governmental leaders to address the issue of global hunger and act on behalf of those who suffer.
"I felt it was important to go to the Capitol not only to lift up the presence of all of those supporters and give them a voice, but also to appeal to congressional members to get on with the business of making the world a better place," she said. "I think the reason we went to the Hill was to appeal to legislators to do what they need to do and play their part."
The prayer wave comes at a critical time in the U.S. Cuts to government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, went into effect Nov. 1, resulting in a reduction in benefits for 47 million Americans, many of them children, who depend on the program to meet their nutritional needs. The cuts equaled an average loss of $36 per month for a family of four, or the equivalent of 10 million meals a day – and Congress is considering even deeper cuts to the program as it comes closer to reaching a deal on the 2014 federal budget.
Many churches and food charities are worried they will no longer be able to meet the needs of the hungry, but Ford Dessables says these organizations can help in other ways. While there will always be a need for direct services like food banks and free meals, she said advocacy is the most effective way to eliminate the problem and an important way to broaden the commitment to change.
"You can't food-bank your way out of this problem," she said. "Policies have to change to eliminate the immediate suffering."