On April 5th, with the support of the United Church of Christ, I flew to Washington, D.C. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) 2013 National Gathering.
EAD is an annual, four-day faith-based conference that aims to achieve global justice and culminates in a lobbying day in which the attendees take to Capitol Hill to solicit change. This year, over 700 Christians of various denominations gathered to focus on “At God’s Table: Food Justice for a Healthy World”. The theme pulls its inspiration from Luke 14:12-24, specifically the following verses:
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
The idea behind the conference is that everyone has the right to a place at God’s table, with its abundant food and nourishment. No one should be denied one of the most basic needs – nutrition. The rest of the passage tells the Parable of the Great Banquet, in which Jesus recounts the story of a man who invites many guests for a feast at his home but, when the food is ready, they find excuses not to attend. The man instead brings in “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” to join him instead. It is a comment on our tendency to make excuses for not finding time for God and not fulfilling our responsibility to those who are in need.
Amid worship services and panels about injustices in the food system – not just malnutrition and food insecurity, but other issues related to hunger such as the degradation of the environment by agro-businesses, the enslavement of food workers, the disadvantages faced by immigrant farm workers, and the cycle of poverty and illness that is perpetuated by the workforce – I attended several policy and skill workshops to become more educated about how to use my faith to witness to others and drive my advocacy.
I learned a lot about the Farm Bill, which was the focus of this year’s congressional “ask”, even though I could not attend the lobby day and join attendees in my congressional district in personally meeting with my congresspeople to ask them to support a full, reformed extension of this legislation. This bill, set to expire in September (five years after its inception), provides food assistance via the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, international emergency food aid, support for farmers markets, conservation and sustainability programs, better field conditions, and assistance to small and disadvantaged farmers. However, it is not necessary to be in our nation’s capitol to seek improvement and garner support for the Farm Bill. Your local church, as an agent of change, is a great place to start.
Images: Ecumenical Advocacy Days