We cannot afford to be spectators as our brothers and sisters starve

Hunger-stricken family sits by the roadside to seek for food items from passersby at Oropoi village near Kakuma, Turkana county. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

If you only know how to eat, you will be stranded when called upon to feed others. We are a country where it is taken for granted that people will steal their way to wealth. Not stealing is the exception. Thieves in the name of leaders do day-light heists and get away with it. A country of theft is a country that knows more of taking away and is unfamiliar with freewill giving. On any day, it is unlikely that a thief will generously give to the poor.

A thieving culture teaches its people how to take away from others. Their hearts are hardened and hell-bent on impoverishing. They are not moved by the plight of the weak and their empathy is depleted. Even when they give, it is because they have figured out a way they would recover what they have given. So why do we have starving people around us yet we have so many able people who can support them? The simple answer is that our "take-away culture" has led to shortage of compassion. A country with a majority takers and eaters suffers a perpetual selfishness pandemic.

The rains are finally here and we are thankful. The downpour brings relief to some areas but others are still dry and people there are still in distress. The rains may cause some to feel that they are on the windward side and forget those on the leeward side. As long as the rains failed, we were united in the heat. Now we are divided by the rain. Rains have come to your town but Turkana still needs food. The ripples of comfort that come with the rains may extend all the way to the hunger-hit zones where they start feeling less recognised. The comfort that comes with rain may have an impact on compassion for the people.

Strangely, some people feel nothing about the hungry and the starving. They do not regard the needy as their responsibility at all. Problems of the hungry belong to the hungry. The hungry should not seem to beg for help but should solve their own problems instead. For these "feel-nothing" people, the plight of the starving is not a reason to stop anything. They are stoic and unmoved. Any display of emotion is counted as weakness. Going by the parable of the sower, the seed sown here does not even get to the ground. It is grabbed mid-air and crushed into dust and will never have a chance.

Some other people get emotional about the hungry but only for a short while. As long as the news item is on, their feeling is on. But as soon the news item ends, their compassion catches a flight too. The story of the hungry is forgotten until the next news broadcast or presentation. The feeling remains at the feeling level and does not elicit any action. Like the seeds that fell on the roadside and the birds made a quick party of it.

Some people feel for the hungry but are conflicted. They engage in many arguments that end up paralysing any action. A simple call to service unnecessarily becomes a philosophical entanglement. They finally find clever ways of excusing their inaction. They build a constituency of bright people who do nothing. They are of the seed that was choked by the thorns.

But there are those who see, feel deeply and are glad to meet the needs of the hungry. Their hearts are stung by compassion and are moved to not only mobilise food but even find ways to facilitate the food get to the hungry sisters and brothers. Some even travel to the actual sites to touch the starving directly. These hearts are fertile soil.

When the stories of the needy are brought to us, the tendency is to look over our shoulders, as if ours is only to watch and listen while it is another person's role to act. There is a huge gap between receiving the information and acting. One would imagine that our high spiritual density would over the years have perfected mobilisation and action systems. But it is not so. Even when a situation is as dire as the present drought in North Eastern Kenya, churches are still satisfied with making a long prayer for the situation. No action follows after the "Amen. Who are you waiting for to feed the hungry? The hungry are waiting on you!

Supporting the needy is a practice that deserves an expressway. Every faith community should have its response system well lubricated ready to respond and freed from institutional red-tape. Jesus described the needy as "the least of these". This captures the possibility of sidelining the needy while centering on the strong. Scripturally speaking, though the work of attending to the needy is often messy and very involving, the dividends are very high. Even with such a motivation, most people feel secure in doing nothing. They leave the work to those who have the "missionary bug."

The mission of the Church and Christians should not end with the present drought. It is time the Church joined hands with other institutions around the world that are working to fix a broken world. As the custodian of the Eden Garden tradition, the Church must be on the forefront of policy formulation regarding sober stewardship of the earth. The Church has the goodwill, network, and resources that position it as a significant actor at the table of stewardship of the earth.

There are times to reap from the dividends of friendship and citizenship. The Church and the State should never watch their people die of hunger. Like the mother hen, the people in dry areas should feel the warmth and the love of being part of a larger community. They should feel that they truly matter.