Easter is a holiday that originates in the Christian Church and is now a tradition celebrated in Canadian culture by all kinds of people–regardless of their belief system.
As millions of people in Canada plan their long weekend, I've been reflecting on what it means for Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada to call itself a "Christian" non-governmental organization (NGO).
I'm aware that there can be a tendency to stereotype people of faith, and while this is inevitable, it can still be painful. At FH Canada, we see all forms of poverty as rooted in all forms of broken relationships. We, therefore, prefer the focus of our work to be walking with others, rather than on an ideology that can alienate.
We also don't want to be misunderstood as a vehicle for evangelism; we really do development work–that's our calling! And we're downright good at it.
So here are a few things it does not mean to affirm FH Canada as a Christian NGO:
It does not mean that a developing community has to be Christian or become Christian in order to partner with Food for the Hungry.
It does not mean that we force participants to go to church or read the Bible.
It does not mean that we discriminate against race, gender, or religious persuasion. On the contrary, we are rooted in a Christian faith that unrelentingly asserts the inherent dignity and equality of all individuals as created in the image of God.
So what does it mean for FH to be a Christian NGO?
At FH Canada, we believe that God loves the most vulnerable people in the world and has called us to serve them. God hates poverty and injustice but loves relationship. He wants to see human flourishing in every part of the world and among every group of people in the world. So we roll up our sleeves, partner with God, and set about the business of helping mend the things that are broken.
Poverty is so complex! But at the root of it, I think we can agree that there is broken relationship—between humans and the earth, between governments, between races, between families, between neighbours.
We see that climate change impacts the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world more than the rich ones. We see the continuing ripple effects of colonialism and imperialism. We see unfair trade laws and lack of workers' unions. We see gender discrimination. We see domestic violence and clan warfare. We see that in our own hearts, we are reticent to give up our daily comforts to help those who are trapped in a cycle of poverty they did not initiate.
As Christians, we believe that God wants to heal each and every one those relationships and that he does this through Easter—through the resurrection of Jesus. That's where our faith and work intersect.
So we help start Savings and Loans groups, send children to school, offer parental counseling, equip farmers to plant more productive fields, train mothers on how to teach their neighbours critical health and hygiene lessons, educate parents on how to keep their daughters out of child marriage, encourage community members by telling them that they are created in the image of God and do not, under any circumstances, deserve to be poor.
We love them with God's love, and we serve them with God's energy. That's what it means to affirm FH Canada as a Christian NGO.
If you are reading this and do not share our Christian convictions, I thank you for your willingness to engage with our beliefs. One of the things I love about FH is the generosity of our donors to reach across the table and join hands in the common cause of ending poverty—one community at a time.
Bernie Willock served as President and CEO of Food for the Hungry Canada from 2014—2017. He is passionate about Christians stepping out in boldness and allowing their faith to cause flourishing in every vocation and sphere of life.