National Gathering on Africa demonstrates ecumenical solidarity, call to action

Bread for the World
Monday, 18 June 2001

Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran "Stand with Africa" campaign partners join together to help combat hunger and poverty in Africa

WASHINGTON—Three major Christian organizations are teaming up to highlight the hope and promise of Africa and call on the nation's leaders to increase U.S. assistance to the continent to help fight ongoing poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

More than 200 people are expected to attend the National Gathering on Africa, June 23 - 26, on the campus of Georgetown University. The conference is sponsored by Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran Stand with Africa campaign partners (Lutheran World Relief, ELCA World Hunger Program and Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod World Relief). All three groups are in the midst of separate campaigns focused on the needs of Africa and have combined their efforts for the gathering.

"We as Christians must extend our hand in solidarity and hope to our neighbors in Africa," said Ken Hackett, executive director of Catholic Relief Services. "The people of Africa are our brothers and sisters. We are one family in one God. The gathering is an unprecedented opportunity to express our commitment to Africa together."

During the gathering, participants will attend workshops, worship and education sessions about issues facing Africa. Featured speakers at the gathering include Dr. Jacques Diouf of Senegal, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; the Rt. Rev. Prof. Dr. Ambrose Moyo, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe; Bishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of the Roman Catholic Koforidua Diocese in Ghana; the Honorable Robert Dole, former U.S. senator; and Pastor Gladys Moore of the Conference of International Black Lutherans.

On Tuesday, June 26, gathering attendees will head to Capitol Hill to lobby their members of Congress for increased poverty-focused assistance Africa, aid to boost agriculture, education and health care, and to fight HIV/AIDS.

"Advocacy is a crucial part of our role as Christians," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "During the gathering, we will not only be learning how to be strong advocates for Africa, we hope to change U.S. policy and funding priorities toward Africa to help curtail AIDS and reduce poverty.

"We want the United States to focus on Africa because that is where the needs are the greatest," Beckmann said. "If we want to cut hunger worldwide, our greatest challenge is in Africa."

Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where hunger has more than doubled over the last 30 years. One of every three people there is chronically undernourished and 291 million people (as many as the entire U.S. population) live on less than $1 a day.

Africa's efforts to overcome poverty have been thwarted by civil wars, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, burdensome foreign debt, declining farm production, environmental problems and other hardships. But recently there have been signs of renewal, including new democratic governments, the rise of grassroots organizations, and economic progress.

With additional aid, African countries could begin to make investments to work themselves out of poverty and to combat the AIDS pandemic. These might include enrolling more children in school (especially girls, who are often kept out), improving farm production and food distribution, treating and preventing both HIV/AIDS and other diseases, encouraging business investment, building roads, and fostering small businesses.

"The statistics…in Africa are daunting, but there are already examples where concerted action by churches, citizens' groups and governments has turned the tide," said Kathryn Wolford, president of Lutheran World Relief. "With vision and the hope that comes from faith, we can defeat despair and chart a future filled with health and life for the children of Africa."

For more information, or to contact Bread for the World, see their website at: www.bread.org

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