On Monday Pope Francis said that while hunger and undernourishment around the world can be an unsettling thing to confront, we must use this to remind us how these situations are caused – which is through indifference and selfishness.
“A glance at the current world situation does not offer us a comforting picture. Yet we cannot remain merely preoccupied or, worse, resigned,” he wrote July 3.
“This moment of evident difficulty must make us even more conscious that hunger and malnutrition are not only natural or structural phenomena in determined geographical areas, but the result of a more complex condition of underdevelopment caused by the indifference of many or the selfishness of a few.”
It is concrete decisions, he said, that lead to devastating consequences such as war and terrorism. “We are dealing with a complex mechanism that mainly burdens the most vulnerable, who are not only excluded from the processes of production, but frequently obliged to leave their lands in search of refuge and hope.”
Pope Francis sent his message July 3 for the opening session of the 40th General Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). It was read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, in the Pope’s place.
In the opening Francis noted his sorrow for not being able to deliver the message of support and encouragement in person. He also sent his “respect and esteem” for the demanding task they must carry out.
The Church accompanies all those committed to working on behalf of the poor and undernourished, the Pope said, adding that the 2030 Development Agenda of the UN reflects this same commitment by stating that the fight for universal food security cannot be put off.
“Yet only an effort inspired by authentic solidarity will be capable of eliminating the great number of persons who are undernourished and deprived of the necessities of life,” he said.
“This is a very great challenge for FAO and for all the Institutions of the international community. It is also a challenge that the Church is committed to on the front lines.”
“The Holy See closely follows the work of the international community and wishes to assist its efforts to promote not mere progress or development goals in theory, but rather the actual elimination of hunger and malnutrition,” he said.
The Pope emphasized that merely the intention to provide everyone with his or her daily bread is not enough. And if our proposed solutions remain distant and not concrete, this is because of a “lack of a culture of solidarity.”
“The commitment of each country to increase its own level of nutrition, to improve agricultural activity and the living conditions of the rural population, is embodied in the encouragement of the agricultural sector, in increased production or in the promotion of an effective distribution of food supplies.”
“Yet this is not enough,” he reiterated. “In effect, what those goals demand is a constant acknowledgment that the right of every person to be free of poverty and hunger depends on the duty of the entire human family to provide practical assistance to those in need.”
To give an example of concrete assistance and to encourage governments, Francis said that he would be making a contribution to the FAO program that provides seeds to rural families in areas affected by both conflict and drought.
When a country is unable to provide an adequate response to the problem of hunger in its own nation, he continued, whether due to underdevelopment, conditions of poverty, or climate change, “FAO and other intergovernmental institutions need to be able to intervene specifically and undertake an adequate solidary action.”
“Since the goods that God the Creator has entrusted to us are meant for all, there is an urgent need for solidarity to be the criterion inspiring all forms of cooperation in international relations,” he said.