Christine from the Oxford University Catholic Chaplaincy’s CAFOD group sent us an account of her day out last Saturday at the Big IF at Hyde Park.
The IF campaign has been working hard to build momentum around Britain over the last months, and it showed on Saturday, 8th June as tens of thousands of people came together in Hyde Park. We came together, as Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a ‘nutrition summit’ and prepared for the G8 meeting, in order to make our voice heard on four issues around food security: aid, land grabs, tax avoidance and transparency. The evidence is clear; there is enough food for everyone IF we convince political leadership to take action in these areas.
We started the day at the ecumenical service in Westminster Central Hall which was packed with 3000 people and more in “overflow” venues, both organised and impromptu. After we had acquired our CAFOD t-shirts, we managed to find a prime spot in a front row of the balcony where we could spot the many other CAFOD IF shirts and people carrying their home made spinning flowers to add to the IF instillation in Hyde Park. The instillation represented the 2 million children who die of malnutrition each year. The service was beautifully done with representatives from many Christian communities participating, with a message from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and Archbishop Justin Welby sending a video message. I was particularly struck by Archbishop Nichols message about our hunger for change: “That millions go hungry every day is a responsibility we all must share. These are our brothers and sisters and their suffering is also ours.” The service was a wonderful recognition of the way in which our faith informs and inspires our search for justice, and really helped us to feel more united in this mission.
The service was followed by a walk of witness to Hyde Park. The large group was unfortunately quite spread out at times, but
I could hear chants of ‘enough food for everyone’ in some parts of the group, with hymns being sung in others. Banners from different organisations could be seen throughout the group as we wove our way through central London. Our Oxford group had united with CAFOD East Anglia and were lucky to have their large CAFOD banner to lead us through the crowds and keep us together.
Upon arrival at the IF area of Hyde Park we navigated through the many stalls from different organisations, places to purchase organic food, and picnicking groups to the CAFOD stall which was buzzing with people acquiring t-shirts, Hungry for Change loaf and fish hats, and getting their faces painted. Groups had traveled from around England and there was a real sense of solidarity as different CAFOD supporters met each other and recognised a shared cause. Our group expanded to welcome some more Oxford members, as well as friends from the Westminster and Southwark dioceses.
As it approached 3.30pm, we settled down on the grass in front of the stage and screens. The forty-five thousand spread out as far as one could see, making an impressive crowd. We were called upon by a number of speakers to shout out and make a noise for the cause as well as to tweet David Cameron. A particularly moving moment was the minute of silence to show respect for those who have died of hunger. It felt like the silence of the large crowd in many ways spoke as loudly as the noise we had made together to express the need for change. After listening to great speakers ranging from Bill Gates, to South Africa’s Jay Naidoo to David Beckham over video link, and viewing a number of informative and thought-provoking videos, we headed over to the IF instillation. There we added our home-made flowers, particularly on behalf of friends who had been unable to make it on the day but supported the cause. Overall the day was both lovely and exhausting and we left with a strong sense of the need for us to both call on David Cameron to make political change but also for us each to continue to act to seek change: both politically as a collective and in our personal lives.
To see more of what CAFOD was up to at the Big IF rally at Hyde Park take a look at this highlights package.