Millions join hearts and minds to pray for end to famine

By agency reporter
May 23, 2017

On 21 May 2017,  the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, millions of people from faith communities, organisations and neighbourhoods across the world prayed, tweeted, posted and talked face-to-face about the urgent action needed to aid 20 million people facing famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria.

Standing with those caught up in the crisis, people prayed for peace, and for a galvanised international response to what the UN has called the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945.

Led by the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Global Day of Prayer brought an emotional outpouring of love and hope that crossed world borders via social media, news headlines and quiet circles of prayer rippling out from churches everywhere. Responders, residents, relief workers, families – many have loved ones either caught up in the crisis or responding to it.

The Global Day of Prayer comes days before the Group of Seven (G7) meets in Italy to discuss, among other issues, global food security. The number of people globally in need of food assistance has risen 35 per cent in the last year, from 80 to 108 million people.

Christians were asked to pray for the mobilisation of funding to meet the funding gap for the aid response (only $1.3 billion of the $4.9 billion needed for an international aid response has been received); for more to be done to foster peace; and for the drivers of extreme hunger (including climate change) to be addressed.

The WCC General Secretary, the  Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said: “We can extend this prayer to all of our sisters and brothers who are in need of food to sustain their lives.” He added, “We can make a difference in this situation. Let us stand together and reflect. Let us pray and act to respond to this crisis.”

Tveit concluded, “The world is one family, praying and responding together, to end famine, to end violence and to bring peace. To ensure that there is sufficient and nutritious food for all, to live life to its fullest.”

In East Africa, the South Sudan Council of Churches encouraged all churches in the country to join the global prayer event. Famine has already been declared in parts of South Sudan. Nigeria, Yemen and Somalia are at imminent risk of famine.

Below is just a sampling of stories and quotes shared on 21 May. Responses continued to be posted, turning the Global Day of Prayer into a lasting response that has great potential to bring about change.

David Beasley, new executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP) based in Rome, urged people to observe the Day of Prayer as he travelled. “Just left Jordan and now in South Sudan. Pray and hope for peace”, he tweeted. Dozens of people also shared a quote from WFP country director, Joyce Luma, in South Sudan: “Humanitarian assistance alone is not enough. If conflict continues, the scale and intensity of needs may escalate and outstrip the ability of relief agencies to meet them.”

Angelo Achuil, faith and development coordinator for World Vision South Sudan said: "Christians in South Sudan have been praying for peace and safety – and for their children to have a future free from violence. Congregations are desperate for an end to the starvation, conflict and displacement that are tearing apart their communities. They are grateful for the prayers of the global church and want people of faith to continue praying. But they also want them to cry out to their leaders to bring justice and peace and to provide the emergency aid that will help them survive this crisis. They feel like the world has forgotten them.”

The Uniting Church in Australia, as part of celebrating 40 years as a uniquely Australian church, included the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine within its 40 days of prayer from 14 May-22 June. The prayer, offered by Rob Floyd, National Director of UnitingWorld, was particularly for those in Africa who are facing famine: “We pray for the people of South Sudan and our partner the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan”, the prayer read. “Bless them as they care for their people and as they work to feed the growing number in their communities facing starvation.”

In a message to the worldwide Salvation Army, international leader General André Cox called on Salvationists and friends to respond "through our actions, not just our words".

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America shared a prayer with its members and partners. “Look with mercy, gracious God, upon people everywhere who are affected by famine or drought. Rouse us from our complacency and help us eliminate cruelty wherever it is found. Strengthen those who seek equality for all. Grant that everyone may enjoy a fair portion of the abundance of the earth; through your son, Jesus Christ Our Lord.”

The ICCO Cooperation, a non-governmental organisation that works to eradicate poverty, inequality and injustice, led a response to the Day of Prayer from its regional office in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa. Bradley Dawson, advocate, shared Bible verses, including Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank promoted a collective response as people enjoyed a meal. “As we share our supper tonight let us pray together to respond and end hunger on the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine.”

Choice Souls Media in Nigeria, based its response on Psalm 112:7. “Lord, we trust in the covenant you have over Nigeria, we refuse to be afraid of the famine, recession, corruption, bad leadership, wickedness in high places. We pray in faith and we trust you for a turn around and for perfecting all that concerns Nigeria.”

Advocate Sarah Park found a new perspective on second helpings of food, and began setting an empty plate next to her own whenever she sets the table. “When I learned that 20 million people are currently facing famine in East Africa, it was a difficult number to comprehend and be moved to action.” she wrote. “In spite of this, I truly believe that hope is always present in the midst of suffering. So this is my response as a global citizen and human being. Every time I sit down for a meal in the months to come, by setting an extra empty plate, I am convicted to pray and donate to those afflicted by food insecurity and famine in East Africa, and I am reminded that why I may not have the power to feed 20 million, I can be a blessing to one.”

Eze Kingsley Chizoba, an agriculture and biotechnology engineer in at the University of Nigeria, shared a simple prayer that resonated with many: “Nigeria is in the hand of God. Join me to pray for Nigeria.”

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en

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