Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Countdown: 2 Days to Go

His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.


Luke 1: 50-53


For many people, Christmas like most other festivities is all about food, and in many ways it is. Most of our favourite Christmas memories revolve around the things we eat and drink in the company of people we love. It is these memories that stay with us for a long time, and provide a template for the way we choose our celebrations.

Every country and culture that celebrates Christmas has its own food tradition. Anywhere you go, there are bound to be sweets and savouries that define the season. For many people, a Christmas meal would be incomplete without a stuffed turkey or mommy's biryani. It is these little things that bring warmth to Christmas festivities, and bring with it all the cherished memories that bring a smile to our face.

While Christmas does revolve around food, we need to step back and look at another world that's out there. This world lurks quietly behind all the familiar landscapes that dot our cherished memories. It is necessary for us to remember that this world comprises the anonymous millions for whom Christmas Day will be another hungry day in the sun.

When I read these words of the Magnificat that Mary uttered, I couldn't help thinking that unlike some TV commentators who think of social concern as a great evil, the Bible on the other hand, disagrees with this viewpoint. In Mary's prophetic utterance, the plight of the hungry is not dismissed as inconsequential and equated with radical politics, but brings the assurance that 'they will be satisfied with good things' and - horror of horrors - the 'rich will be sent away empty.'

It's not that there is anything wrong with being rich, but apparently severe judgement is reserved for the self-centred, self-satisfying, arrogant and full of themselves 'rich'. Any justification for selfish behaviour will meet a sorry end since it will not meet with divine approval. The late Mother Theresa said it best when she described her work with the 'poorest of the poor' as something beautiful for God.

I felt it was necessary to look at some of the data collected from the United Nations World Food Programme. It gives us an overview of the current statistics on world hunger that we can use to understand the situation better. It provides a horrid picture of how miserable the things are at the moment.


925 million people do not have enough to eat - more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union;
(Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010)

98 percent of the world's hungry live in developing countries;
(Source: FAO news release, 2010)

More than 70 percent of the world's 146 million underweight children under age five years live in just 10 countries, with more than 50 per cent located in South Asia alone;
(Source: Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, UNICEF, 2006)

10.9 million children under five die in developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of the deaths;
(Source: The State of the World's Children, UNICEF, 2007)

The cost of undernutrition to national economic development is estimated at US$20-30 billion per annum;
(Source: Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition, UNICEF, 2006)

t is estimated that 684,000 child deaths worldwide could be prevented by increasing access to vitamin A and zinc
(Source: WFP Annual Report 2007)

Undernutrition contributes to 53 percent of the 9.7 million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries.
(Source: Under five deaths by cause, UNICEF, 2006)

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