Left Justified: Art Simon in Rockford March 25-26

By Stanley Campbell

I remember meeting former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) in Freeport, Ill. He’d just spoken at the local “hunger luncheon” sponsored by Freeport Area Church Cooperative, and I was invited to take him back to Rockford Airport.

He’d delivered an impassioned plea to help hungry people. I was one of his admirers, so having him in my car was a great blessing. I expressed my condolences on the death of his wife. I asked him about helping the poor, and he admitted most of his knowledge about that subject came from his brother Art.

Instead of organizing food pantries and soup kitchens, Art Simon, founder of Bread for the World, took a different approach by organizing a movement that consistently and persistently works to end hunger at home and abroad.

Pastoring a congregation in the poorest section of Brooklyn, Art Simon learned it was one thing to feed people who are in poverty, but it is another to change the conditions, programs and policies that allow hunger and poverty to persist. Art Simon has written a new book (he’s a prolific author): The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger, which tells the origin and history of this movement.

Art will be in Rockford, sharing his insights at a prayer service, open to the public, at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 25, at Second Congregational Church, 318 N. Church St. Afterward, over refreshments, you can ask him questions.

Art will also be the featured speaker at a noon luncheon the next day, Friday, March 26, at Our Savior Lutheran Church, 3300 Rural St. RSVP to Carol Burmeister (815-397-5579) for the noon luncheon. Book signings will take place at both events.

My good friend, the Rev. Ken Storck, tells me more than 24,000 people on our globe die each day of hunger. It does not make the headlines, nor is it even a blip on the media radar screen. Yet, in good conscience, we should not let these deaths go by. It takes more than simply feeding some of the hungry to change this fact!

As a result, Art Simon formed this advocacy movement on behalf of those voiceless millions who go hungry every day. Bread for the World (BFW) is a collective of caring voices urging our nation’s decision-makers to end hunger at home and abroad. By changing policies, programs and conditions that allow hunger and poverty to persist, BFW provides help and opportunity far beyond the communities in which its members live.

And there is a local Bread for the World chapter that meets regularly and tries to encourage our Congressman to share some of the crumbs that fall from America’s dinner tables.

Helping the poor was once the purview of religion; the majority of giving came through churches. Government stepped in to “war against hunger,” but it looks like poverty is winning.

We’ve become more secular, and churches appear less generous. Maybe they’ve forgotten the biblical exhortation of Jesus reminding us to “help the poor or go to hell” (Matthew, chapter 25, verses 41 and 42).

We should help to make the world a better place, and thank goodness there are good folks who try to get our government to do good!

It’s dangerous to “let the government do it” because sometimes it doesn’t get done. But emergencies that are akin to “acts of God” need giant responses, especially where a number of people are destitute.

Sending the Army to relieve the pain of Haiti is much better than sending the Army to Afghanistan to inflict pain.

The world relies on non-governmental organizations to do most of the “dirty” work of helping the poorest. NGOs are often more important than government agencies. Yes, the Army can save a greater number of lives, especially when they aren’t in a war. But the NGOs go there, often sooner, with more stuff and long-term development ideas, and all without a political ax to grind. With Bread for the World’s exhortations to support NGOs and use government surpluses, we may see poverty retreat.

Rockford Urban Ministries and the local Rockford chapter of Bread for the World sponsor the programs. Call me at (815) 964-7111 for more information.

  Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

 From the March 24-30, 2010 issue

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