News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 20, 2012

World’s famines pose critical issues for religious, scholar says

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — In a world of plenty, people still go hungry, and the Christian response is to help.

Dozens gathered inside the Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church South Campus on Sunday evening for a presentation by retired Indiana State University professor Dr. Bill Dando, titled “Food, Famine and the Christian Responsibility.”

In addition to parishioners, local growers joined with members of the Wabash Valley Master Gardeners, invited by Senior Pastor Aaron Wheaton, who recalled first hearing Dando speak to the issue in March.

“I didn’t know about the drought back in March,” Wheaton said. “But I thought it would be a good topic to talk about, so I scheduled him for August.”

And those months in between have provided much to consider in light of a drought many feel to be the worst in recent history, he noted. But whether it’s here or elsewhere on Earth, the Christian response to hunger is universal.

“Sharing. I think it involves sharing our blessings with other parts of the world,” Wheaton said before the speech.

And for the most part, Dando — who has more than 22 books, 72 articles and two atlases to his publishing credit — agreed.

“The Christian response is to help,” he said.

True famine, he explained, is a much more complex issue than simple lack of food and is never caused by drought alone.

“We’ve never had a famine in the U.S., by the way,” he said, pointing out the rarity of that fact. Few countries can claim that, he said, adding the drought of 2012 will certainly produce a food crisis in 2013, and this will impact the poor.

But not in the extreme manner seen in other nations.

Three true famines are under way at present, he said, citing Ethiopia, Mongolia and parts of the Andes Mountains as current examples. And even though global production of food is ample to provide for all of its 7 billion inhabitants, more than 40 percent is wasted, resulting in nearly 6.5 billion people being “food insecure.”

And though situated in the middle of the U.S., Terre Haute is among those areas suffering food insecurity, he said. Despite being home to five institutions of higher education, the state’s wealthiest bankers and the owners of the Indianapolis 500, the town has numerous hungry people, all lacking adequate food supply, he said.

But in his study spanning 6,000 years of famine and food shortages, Dando said it’s become apparent that much can be done to remedy the situation.

Droughts, he said, do not cause famine. Human policies and actions are to blame.

The good news, he pointed out, is that humans can likewise reverse those decisions at will, making the Christian response to help all the more important.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or brian.boyce@tribstar.com.