WHY would someone opt to go without food for the whole of Lent, and to drink only water during that time?
That’s exactly what Keith Hebden (a clergyman from Mansfield), and Simon Cross (a chaplain in Grimsby) have decided to do in order to highlight the issue of food poverty in the UK. Their Lenten fast is part of a wider campaign, ‘End Hunger Fast’.
Throughout scripture, fasting is referred to as abstaining from food and drink for spiritual purposes.
Fasting is said to help us to keep a balance in our lives — to resist cravings.
Some Christians abstain from things other than food: social media, TV, use of mobile phones, noise — even being busy, as a way refocusing on God and sidelining distractions.
Another key aspect of fasting, however, is to combat injustice.
The prophet Isaiah said, ‘Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?’ There is much structural injustice at work in our world, including within our own country.
The Diocese of Oxford includes some of the most prosperous parts of the UK.
Yet the past two or three years have seen a rapid growth in food bank activity here.
We celebrate the fact that Christians of all denominations are working alongside those of other faiths and none to mitigate the immediate effects of food poverty. However, while it is an imperative of our faith tradition to feed the hungry, our prophetic tradition also requires us to ask why the hungry have no food.
Talking to those who use and run food banks, It is clear that the economic downturn, and the choice to pursue an austerity agenda in response to it, have had a big impact.
There seems to be a rapidly expanding gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, and the scary thing is that the ‘have nots’ could be any one of us.
The transition from relative security to utter precariousness and vulnerability is a journey that many families are making through no fault of their own.
This journey can often be accompanied by bereavement, stress, and mental or physical ill health.
The cause can be job loss, a shift to lower wages, removal or reduction of benefits, and debt burdens. Punitive benefit sanctions and the end of crisis loans are the most recent additions to the list of challenges faced by the poorest in our communities.
Check out endhungerfast.co.uk to see how you can be part of the campaign to combat food poverty in the UK.