Over 250 priests, monks, nuns and other members of religious orders gathered at Westminster on Wednesday 15 May in order to show their support for the IF campaign, voice their outrage at the scandal of global hunger and let their MPs know what they think.
Many of those present had spent time on the frontline of combatting hunger, caring for those suffering its affects and supporting those doing something about it in poor countries around the world.
The human face of poverty
Sr Gemma Simmonds was one such nun, whose first personal experience of poverty came in Brazil more than 20 years ago and has lived with her ever since – inspiring her to take to the radio, TV and lecture hall to let people here in the UK know about the reality of those elsewhere in the world living in poverty.
"I saw the human face of hunger, people begging for scraps of food, babies dying, the whole economy was a mess," Sr Gemma said.
"On my return to London I found the contrast between that and the mindless consumerism here disgusting. I’m here today because I believe we need to change behaviour, from big businesses to individuals. The government needs to realise that this is about changing the world."
Prioritising nutrition at the G8
After pausing for a quiet moment of prayer, led by Bishop John Arnold, everyone processed to Parliament to deliver three key messages to their MPs:
1. Will you write to the Prime Minister, asking him to prioritise nutrition at the G8 Hunger summit on 8 June?
2. Will you write to the Prime Minister urging him to ensure G8 leaders tackle tax?
3. Will you write to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills asking him to ensure the updated Companies Act requires stringent human rights evaluations?
The difference it can make
"We are growing lots of new crops and so we have a better diet. My family is really thankful for the variety of food,” Elena Tusen in the Dominican Republic tells us,
"For the future I want to maintain and expand the garden and the chicken coop to ensure the health of my children, and provide some income for schooling.
"And as a farming promoter, I want to continue to support other families in the community, and promote food security and nutrition to improve the welfare of the whole community."
Thanks to training from Progressio’s Karina Cuba, Milagros Gomez (above), living in the Dominican Republic, is able to advise others on food safety and nutritional health, and how to grow more and better quality food.
"The communities in the border area are forgotten by all, especially the government,” she says. “I want to do what I can to support more people, especially families with children."
Putting faith into action
Sr Mary Walsh, who had travelled from Yorkshire to be at the meeting on Wednesday, said that: “There is always a tug between local issues and bigger ones affecting people far away which are just as important. I had to ask someone to step in for me at a nearby soup kitchen this morning but I thought it was important to be here, to show the government that we believe in making the world a better place for everyone – not just those that can afford it.”
Deacon David Brinn, from the Clifton Diocese, was encouraged to see that so many people had made the effort to be at the event and prepared to put their faith into action. “This event is about changing attitudes of those in power,” Deacon David said, “and letting them know that we recognise there is a problem with the way the world works and that we also know how it could be fixed.”
All those who gathered to lobby their MPs on Wednesday refuse to let people such as Elena and Milagros be forgotten.
Photo 1: Progressio's Catherine Orchard with Sr Gemma Simmonds
Photo 2: Milagros Gomez in the Dominican Republic (photo © Fran Afonso/Progressio)
Photo 3: People gathered for the religious lobby