Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Guest Blogger: Let Them Eat Cake?

    While most of us have spent the last few months fixated on soaring gas prices, the hemorrhaging of the US housing and financial markets, and whether Barack Obama is wearing a flag lapel pin, a crisis that is absolutely one of life and death has only recently started to gain attention here in the US -- the emerging global food crisis affecting millions of people.

    The political debate over the the cause of both a massive shortage of food and rapidly increasing food prices throughout the world includes many conflicting theories, but most experts are in agreement with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the consequences:

    "If not handled properly, this crisis could result in a cascade of others...and become a multidimensional problem affecting economic growth, social progress and even political security around the world." (ABC News)

    In developing nations, where some 80% of earnings have to be spent on food (in contrast, Americans spend 10% on average) experts now estimate 850 million people are currently in danger of starvation. Many of the hardest hit areas have already begun to see rioting and deaths related to the crisis.

    To the youth we work with such a situation will likely seem hard to believe. Most of them have almost certainly never known anything but abundance in regard to food. When it comes to satisfying their own hunger, we have raised them in a society where they can expect food to be plentiful, fast, calorie-dense and available at all times. And they expect little condemnation for wasting what they don't want to eat (unlike when I was a kid and you couldn't leave the table unless you cleaned your plate!).

    So, how do we talk to our youth about this crisis and the Christian responsibility to respond to it? How do we help them understand suffering so alien to their own experience? I know Brian has been leading his youth groups through the 30 Hour Famine project for years, but considering the scope of the challenge is it enough now to talk to our young people about this but once a year?