Fasting, Just Because We Can

I have been waffling over what to do for Lent for several months now, though I have always known I wanted to address global hunger.
I spend a fair amount of time reading and hearing about global hunger, and so I wanted to do something significant about it, like really fast,for real, or try to live on a few dollars a day, or eat simply, like this guy, for the duration. Most of this seemed pretty overwhelming, so my manageable offering is to fast once a week and use that time to pray for people living in hunger around the world. I am trying to make it personal by reading the stories of people who regularly go without food. It is a sobering thing to do. More than anything else, reading these stories while I am hungry brings these individuals to life. Though the statistics break my heart, and particularly this one,

One-third of all children less than five years old in the developing world are starving,

I haven't known how to really make a difference in this mammoth struggle.

I do think that this Lenten practice will move something in me, and I think it will make a big difference in the way that I respond in the future when I hear about the more than 900 million people who are malnourished across the world.

Hunger is inextricably linked to inequity and injustice in many forms, which I was reminded of today when I received an email from the ONE campaign, which details another population that is struggling against hunger and horrific governance. It was a letter from Kumi Naidoo, a South African founder of the Global Campaign Against Poverty, and a ONE member, who discussed her recent practice of fasting in solidarity with Zimbabweans in their struggle for just governance. I was moved by this excerpt:

I recently completed a 21 day fast in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, many of whom are fasting involuntarily in a country ravaged by want, destitution, fear and terror. During my fast, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe joined the government, after reaching an agreement with Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF. This agreement will be overseen by the African Union, acting as guarantor. For this new unity government to have any chance of ending the humanitarian and political crises in Zimbabwe, the African Union and its member nations must take decisive action to ensure that their role as a guarantor is defined and fulfilled.

I have seen with my own eyes what happens when regional powers like the African Union passively allow governments to dismiss the will of a people. Late last year I travelled to Zimbabwe to see for myself what years of corruption, repression and mismanagement had wrought. While there, I met a 10 year-old boy named Sibusiso who had not eaten for 10 days. He told me, "Our country needs to be free – free as a bird – here we are not free. We do not get food to eat."

This letter reminds me of the intersections between governance, corruption, and hunger. It also reminds me of our power to effect real change in the lives of people who suffer under injustice. I've already signed the petition, and I invite you to do the same.

I am considering posting the stories that I read this Lent and challenging others to join me in my fast, which is, at its heart, an effort to understand the plight of the poor, for whom there is particular hope in the Easter story.

Will you join me? I know it's a little late for Lent practices, but if you are interested, please comment and let me know. If there are enough people I will be posting the stories of people living with chronic hunger every Sunday until Easter.


  1. Penny - Thank you for highlighting this topic during this season. Thanks, too, for referencing Ryan and what he is doing to end world hunger. Ryan has an amazing story.

    I'll be praying for you and others during this journey.

  2. I keep trying to fast, just one meal a day, but I get so grumpy with my children that I give in and eat something so that I can care for them with a pleasant manner. Any tips on how to be a cheerful mommy while fasting?

  3. Mmmm...cheerful mommy. It's really a hard one. I do just one meal a day, too, and one thing I try is this: when I'm just about over the edge I say, okay, I wonder if I can make it fifteen more minutes? And if I can't, I'm okay having a small nibble. Usually, though, I can make it through the hours fifteen minutes by fifteen minutes. It just makes me so thankful that I can feed my children, not to mention myself!!

    Thanks for the good quetion!