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Oxfam is 70 years young

Updated on November 15, 2012

There was a church minister, a professor and a refugee. No this isn't the opening line to a corny joke, rather something much more serious and wonderful.

In 1942 Rev T R Milford, the vicar of the University Church in Oxford called a meeting to discuss the plight of the hungry people in Nazi-occupied Greece, starving because of the oppression by their Nazi rulers and the blockade by the Allies. Thousands of children were described as "walking skeletons".

In addition to those listed above, social activists and local church members were there and they decided to raise money to help the starving. Their appeal raised £10,700 (about £370,000 today) for the Greek Red Cross.

They called themselves the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief, later shortened to Oxfam. 70 years later and the aid agency now works in 90 countries and last year, Oxfam GB alone helped 15 million people in 55 countries.

Oxfam also opened the first charity (thrift) shop in the UK, pioneered fair trade and worked on climate change. They were also nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth was wise enough to realise that there is little point in talking to someone about Christianity if they are hungry, cold or homeless. So The Army set out to meet their physical needs and then their spiritual, regarding their whole being as important.

Spiritual hunger

We are told that there is a spiritual hunger even today. True, some people will be looking for the meaning of life in places other than the established religions, but search they will.

Jesus said “ I am the bread of life” and invited people to believe that He really was the Son of God. It's true that Jesus performed miracles when people who came to hear Him needed to be fed, but he also quoted the words of Moses who said that “Man cannot live by bread alone, but needs every word that God speaks.” He realised that whilst we all have to meet our physical needs, it is more important to be make sure that God is at the top of our priority list.

Sadly even today there are many people who go hungry, even in the developed world, so thank God for Oxfam. But greater cause for celebration is the fact that no one need ever be spiritually hungry when Jesus offers to meet our needs and be our “staff of life”.

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