Last week a nation-wide event was launched that, as far as I know, did not make a single headline on any major news network.
“Bread For The World,” an organization whose mission is to put an end to hunger at home and abroad, started up a campaign in response to proposed budget cuts to social services across the U.S. and food aid abroad, and it is spreading.
The movement is called “For Such a Time as This: A call to Prayer, Fasting and Advocacy” and prominent leaders and clergy around the nation are participating. The first period of fasting covered May 21st through 23rd, timed to coincide with the release of the new administrations’ proposed budget.
As expected, the anticipated cuts to the Nutrition Assistance Program and to WIC that have been announced are unprecedented. This has the potential to create a crisis situation for people who rely on those programs to feed themselves or their children. Despite the announcement this week that food stamp benefits in the CNMI are being increased, there is no guarantee that the President’s new budget would reserve funding for those benefits. We simply do not know for sure what might happen.
The first part of the Bread for the World’s call to action refers to a verse in the book of Esther, in the Old Testament. Some time after Esther was made queen, her Jewish community faced an imminent threat. In order to spur her to intervene before the king on their behalf (and to save her own life!) her devout uncle reminded her that it may well be that God had raised her to such a position of influence in preparation for just “such a time as this.”
The second part of the title is also inspired by Queen Esther. The campaign calls for a threefold strategy, the same that Queen Esther herself followed: to pray, to fast and to advocate on behalf of those who are set to suffer the most.
The campaign will continue beyond the month of May, with the 21st of each month until December 2018 set aside for fasting. The praying and advocacy are meant to continue on a daily basis.
How is this relevant for us in the CNMI? Well, it will depend on what these cuts will mean for our local NAP and WIC. It is hard to project but at Karidat, it is not a stretch to imagine that with even fewer resources for the poorest among us on Tinian, Saipan and Rota, our phones and waiting lines will grow even more crowded.
Karidat and Bread for the World overlap in our mission to help bring relief to those who are currently suffering or in want, and to advocate for a change to policies that adversely affect individuals and families.
Please keep a keen ear out for developments on the national level regarding distributions of resources dedicated to fair wages, food for the hungry, housing for the homeless and healthcare for the most at-risk.
The US Catholic Bishop’s Conference reminds us, “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring.” It is simply not an option for Christians to turn away from the hungry.
At Karidat, it is a specialty of ours to be on the frontlines to respond to needs and crises as they arise, but of course we cannot do that alone. Who knows but that maybe you are in the position you are, or wield the influence you do, for “such a time as this.”
(For more information on this movement, visit www.bread.org)