Friday, 23 March 2012

Big Brother meets the East Africa food crisis

Guest blog with Tearfund's integral mission director and Sorted columnist, David Westlake.

My assistant tends to throw books at my head. Not literally. Once in a while shell put a book in front of me - still warm from her speed read, utter the words just read this, and swoosh back to her desk.

The Hunger Games was one of those books.

Set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future of what was North America, the country of Panem has risen from the ashes. But districts around its Capitol are starving and dying. Children are forced to skip school to find food and become heads of families when their parents are too sick to care for them. To prevent another uprising, the Capitol holds an annual event where they choose a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district and force them to fight to the death for prizes of food as the whole country watches.

These characters are absolutely defined by their hunger; the relationships between characters; the heroines motivation for volunteering for the games; and her need to survive in the arena - all defined by food.

So Im trying to figure out what it is about this book that makes it so engaging, so believable. And then I get it.

The Hunger Games tells a story of a future that doesnt exist... yet.  But themes of hunger, violence and poverty do exist, right now, in countries all over the world.

One in seven people go to bed hungry every single night. Thats a billion individuals made in the image of God. The rising costs of food, changes in climate, corrupt governments and many other factors mean that we see hunger crises in some of the poorest communities in the world time and time again.

In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is disconnected from this, many unaware of or indifferent to the plight of the districts throughout the rest of the country. For them, everyday life remains untainted by hunger and wanting. It consumes far beyond what is necessary while those outside its walls fight for their lives.

It begs the question: if The Hunger Games was real, who would ‘the Capitol’ represent?

The book reminds us that we cannot be indifferent towards the injustices that cause hunger, and now that it is eating into the cultural zeitgeist for all to see, it cannot be ignored.

So what do we do about it? What does this mean for us as Christians? How can we still care for the last, the least and the lost when the situation seems so overwhelmingly impossible?

We start in prayer to our God of unending possibility; praying that God would provide and asking him to give our governments and leaders the wisdom and power to make the changes that will give a billion people on our planet a future and a hope, released from the shackles of hunger. It’s also important to pray for the work of organisations such as Tearfund that they would be effective in helping people lift themselves out of poverty. And finally, we should pray that God would change us, to help us see the world the way He wants us to, and to seek out justice and change.

The Church needs to lead the way in a social revolution that sees people make lifestyle changes in a world of increasing population and finite resources, ensuring that all who are made in the image of God are treated equally.

Read the book, watch the film (just launched in cinemas), and get engaged in the brilliantly told story. But let’s not dismiss The Hunger Games as a fictional would-be future. Let’s remember how very real this situation is for so many, and let’s pray, reflect and act to end the real hunger ‘games’ in our world.

Click here to find out more about Tearfund's hunger games campaign.

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