June 5, 2016: Hope Amidst Famine
From Paul Turley
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
When we think of famine, we often think of Sub-Saharan Africa, where we have been used to hearing about and seeing famines come and go for many decades with devastating results. In the 2010 to 2012 famine that hit Somalia, more than a quarter of a million people perished. One area of the world we do not often think of first with regard to famine is the Middle East. Yet there is a famine unfolding at this moment in the poorest Middle Eastern country, Yemen.
The population of the Middle East’s poorest country is 27 million. Currently, the United Nations estimates that more than seven and a half million people face severe food shortages and are “one step” from famine.
However, Yemen, according to the U.N.’s John Ging, seems to no longer be at the top of the foreign aid concerns of countries around the world. According to Ging, the U.N. appeal for $1.8 billion to help more than 13 million Yemenis this year is just 16 percent funded despite Yemen being declared one of the U.N.’s highest-level humanitarian emergencies. One of the world’s wealthiest nations and a neighbour to Yemen, Saudi Arabia, has yet to make an aid contribution this year.
Yemen is in the midst of a civil war. Or at least that is one way of describing the ongoing fighting. The other is that Yemen is the battleground for wider Middle East tensions. There are a number of groups who benefit from the ongoing conflict. The main insurgent group, the Sufi Houthis who have held the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, since 2014 and the incumbent President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi are the main players, but outside groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are able to use the chaos to their wider advantage. Each also has a motive to impede the peace process.
Regardless of the cause of the conflict and its prospects for a peaceful end (which suffered a setback when the peace process broke down in Switzerland last year), people are suffering and the food security situation is getting worse. The United Nations says that as of the beginning of 2016, 180,000 children are suffering from malnutrition. And while they are not responsible for their situation and may not even understand why they suffer, without our help, their suffering will continue.
Explore…1 Kings 17:8–16, (17–24)
How might our story in 1 Kings be understood or experienced by people in Yemen at this moment in time?
Are there situations in your own life or in your community where things are so dire that there seems to be no hope? How might the story of the widow and her son speak into those situations?
A widow and her son, in ancient Israel, are perhaps at the bottom of the heap when it comes to importance and influence. Even the title of this book (1 Kings) and its sequel (2 Kings), tells us who and what is important. Why do you think this story is included in the narrative?
God, save us from despair and weariness when we think of our brothers and sisters who are suffering. May we not give up on your call for us all to be one human community. May we never stop working for the world you want, where everyone belongs and everyone has enough. Amen.