In day 15 of a fast from all food, the executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger urged Cabrini students and faculty to understand the devastating effects of what Congress’ budget cuts could have on those below the poverty line at home and abroad. Ambassador Tony Hall spoke to a campus audience of approximately 100 students and staff on Monday, April 11.
Former ambassador Tony Hall said the fast had several purposes. One was to protest the budget cuts Congress is making that will fall disproportionately on poor and vulnerable people.
“I heard about the social justice program here at Cabrini through a friend. I knew my message would be received well here,” Hall said.
The United States Congress is proposing to cut 50 percent of food aid to hungry people overseas. One billion people in the world are malnourished, including 50 million Americans. Of those 50 million, 17 million are children.
“We believe strongly in our ‘Justice Matters’ curriculum, but that traditionally consists of just a set of courses,” Dr. Jeffrey Gingerich, associate professor of sociology and dean for academic affairs, said. “What really matters, and what is most powerful about our curriculum, is what you do with those courses.”
“We at Cabrini are very appreciative to Ambassador Hall for joining us, and for providing an amazing witness for how to go about being in solidarity,” Gingerich said. “We are most appreciative for you creating a most just and more caring world.”
Nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Ambassador Hall has witnessed the poor and hungry first-hand. He has visited over 100 poverty-stricken and war-torn countries.
The vulnerable affected by the proposed cuts put the lives of millions of children at risk, seniors and people with disabilities cuts will plunge tens of millions around the world into a deeper struggle with malnutrition. Hall believes the cuts are an offense to conscience.
Hall remembers his trip to Ethiopia as a life-changing event he will never forget.
“I saw 25 children die in 25 minutes due to hunger. I never got over it,” Hall said.
Each day, 25,000 people die worldwide from hunger and hunger-related diseases. If the proposed cuts go through, Hall projects 70,000 people will die due to hunger.
“A 26 percent cut of poverty-focused foreign aid would compromise the hard work that we have achieved over the past years in CRS,” Eric Gibble, senior communication major and president of Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors Club, said. “When you cut funding for the poor, you are cutting the food and water security for the most vulnerable people in the world.
“Foreign aid often provides individuals in poor countries the chance to reach that first rung on the ladder,” Dr. Erin McLaughlin, assistant professor of business administration, said. “The basics needs of survival – food, health, shelter, – allow people to reach that first rung.”
McLaughlin traveled to Cabrini Ministries in Swaziland with five members of the campus community in June 2010. Having the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the world, McLaughlin said Swaziland depends on bilateral foreign aid from the United States Government “to help ensure that parents live long enough to feed their children.”
“We have a responsibility to help our fellow human beings,” McLaughlin said.
That same foreign aid would be cut drastically if the budget cuts proposed by Congress are enacted. Hall is fasting because of those same cuts.
Hall agrees budgets need to be cut to get our fiscal house in order, but he does not believe Congress should take aid from those who need it most.
“Kids should be excited about recess and playing sports. They shouldn’t be excited about food,” Hall said, speaking of going to families in rural Ohio where children would become overly excited he brought food to them.
In 1993, Hall’s first fast lasted 22 days to protest the lack of conscience of the U.S. Congress towards hungry people. The hunger strike led to 6,000 high schools and 200 universities to join in fasting. “I was going to fast to God until something good happened,” Hall said.
Hall hopes for people to learn three different lessons from his fast. The first is to remind people the status of vulnerable people in the United States and around the world. 2.1 billion people live on less than two dollars a day.
The second point Hall hopes people will recognize are the devastating effects the cuts will have on vulnerable people.
The third is to form a circle of protection around programs that, if cut, will most severely hurt vulnerable people. Garnering participation is Hall’s main course of action.
“Our mission is not only to serve the poor, but to live alongside them,” Gingerich said.