Today marks the start of a yearlong commemoration of the fifth-anniversary of “Laudato Si,” the encyclical Pope Francis wrote about the interconnectedness of all of God’s creation and our responsibility of stewardship. The current coronavirus pandemic connects the dots, making us acutely aware of our dependence on one another and of our reliance on a healthy environment for our sustenance.
Coinciding with the anniversary is a new Catholic Relief Services global campaign “Lead the Way on Hunger” to deal with the “shadow pandemic of hunger” that has emerged. CRS, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries.
CRS representatives and supporters announced the multi-year campaign May 14, the day that Pope Francis and other leaders of the world’s religions designated for prayer, fasting and acts of charity to ask God to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. That morning, the Holy Father prayed during Mass for an end to other awful pandemics, “those of hunger, war, children without education.” He noted that 3.7 million people have died of hunger in the first four months of this year (Catholic News Service).
The coronavirus pandemic has caused more people around the world to struggle to put food on the table. CRS reports that one in nine people worldwide do not have enough to eat. The secondary effects of the coronavirus could cause that number to grow dramatically.
According to the World Food Program, the number of people suffering from acute hunger could increase by more than 130 million because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is estimated that currently 149 million children face a lifetime of developmental challenges caused by malnutrition. Those of us who have the means to feed the hungry are obligated to do so, as followers of Christ journeying through an extraordinary Easter season.
How we care for others cannot be separated from how we care for the environment. As the Holy Father said in his encyclical “Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God” (Laudato Si, 119).
Lead the Way on Hunger calls for fundraising, advocacy and public-awareness activities, including through social media. “The shadow pandemic of worsening hunger is playing out in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries,” Sean Callahan, CRS’ president and CEO said during a May 14 teleconference. “Now is the time for us to lead the way forward to ensure that these communities have the support they need to make it through this crisis and beyond.”
CRS asks us to take these actions to Lead the Way on Hunger:
• Write to members of our congressional delegation to advocate for specific bills that help improve food security in poor and vulnerable communities overseas. That includes asking for an additional $12 billion in foreign assistance funding in the next emergency COVID-19 bill. Contact Sen. Charles Grassley at Grassley.senate.gov, Sen. Joni Ernst at Ernst.senate.gov, U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack at loebsack.house.gov, and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer at finkenauer.house.gov.
• Spread the word about the campaign through social media and use of the hashtag #LeadNow.
• Encourage formation of CRS chapters. The agency is partnering with Catholic high schools, universities, parishes and dioceses. These chapters engage in advocacy and fundraising activities on global poverty issues.
• Visit the Lead the Way on Hunger website at: bit.ly/LTW_hunger
As the hunger-fighting campaign begins, the Laudato Si Week (May 16-24) organized by Catholic Climate Change is wrapping up. The Global Day of Prayer, today, encourages prayer gatherings at home, or online with small parish, group or family discussions. Visit the Catholic Climate Change website at catholicclimatecovenant.org to learn more about the organization.
Whether you pray today or another day, reflect on these questions from Daniel Misleh, founding executive director of Catholic Climate Change: “We are living in a threshold time where we can catch glimpses of something new. Each one of us should ask, what will be on the other side of this pandemic? How might we think and act differently?”
Finally, take the opportunity to read Laudato Si — Praise Be to You (On Care for Our Common Home). “We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world …” (Laudato Si, 223).
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor