Pope says hunger caused by indifference of many, selfishness of a few

Pope says hunger caused by indifference of many, selfishness of a few

Pope says hunger caused by indifference of many, selfishness of a few

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, reads a message from Pope Francis to the 40th general conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Credit: FAO.)

Pope Francis told the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization the international community should acknowledge hunger and malnutrition are not “natural or structural phenomena." The pope said "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 said the intergovernmental organizations, such as those affiliated with the United Nations, “need to be able to intervene specifically and undertake an adequate solidarity action” when “a country is incapable of offering adequate responses because its degree of development, conditions of poverty, climate changes or situations of insecurity.”

The pontiff said the reason hunger and malnutrition still exist is because of a “lack of a culture of solidarity,” and countries are not doing enough to tackle the issue.

The pope’s remarks came in a message on Monday to the 40th general conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is headquartered in Rome.

Over one thousand participants at the conference will be discussing how “to turn commitment into action” to achieve the Global Goal of Zero Hunger.

Francis warned the international community against “being bound only to the pragmatism of statistics or the desire for efficiency that lacks the idea of sharing.”

He said solidarity needs to be the criterion behind the different forms of cooperation in international relations, since the goods entrusted to us by God are meant for everyone.

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,” the pope wrote.  

“Yet this is not enough,” he continued. “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.”

Francis said a glance at the current world situation does not offer a comforting picture, but humanity cannot remain merely preoccupied or, worse, resigned.  

Instead, the international community should acknowledge hunger and malnutrition are not “natural or structural phenomena,” but “caused by the indifference of many or the selfishness of a few.

“The wars, acts of terrorism and forced displacements that increasingly hinder or at least strongly condition even cooperative efforts are not inevitable, but rather the consequence of concrete decisions,” Francis said.

“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.”

The pope also lamented the decisions being made which affect how much help gets to those in need, saying people “need to be aware that in these cases the freedom of choice of each must take into account solidarity towards all, in relation to actual needs, and the fulfilment in good faith of commitments undertaken or proclaimed.”

Francis also made a contribution to a program run by the FAO to provide seeds to rural families in areas affected by conflicts and drought.

The message of the pope was read by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who announced Francis would visit the FAO headquarters on October 16, to speak on “Changing the future of migration.”

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