Pope Francis on Thursday condemned the excessive consumption and misuse of food, saying that often the statistics surrounding the topic of hunger are twisted for the sake of national security. “There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis,” the Pope said Nov. 20. It is “painful,” he said, to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition “is hindered by 'market priorities,' the 'primacy of profit,' which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature.” Pope Francis offered his comments during a speech given to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at their headquarters in Rome. The organization is currently holding their Second International Conference on Nutrition, which began on Nov. 19, and closes Nov. 21. The pontiff condemned what St. Pope John Paul II also spoke of at the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, when he warned the international community against the risk of the “paradox of plenty.” This paradox in which there is enough food for everyone — and yet not everyone can eat — still exists, the Pope observed, saying that “waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes.” In today's world relations between nations are often damaged by a “mutual suspicion” which at times leads to military and economic aggression, he said, noting how this aggression damages friendships and leads to the rejection and discarding of those who are already excluded. “This is a picture of today's world, in which it is necessary to recognize the limits of approaches based on the sovereignty of each state, intended as absolute, and national interest, frequently conditioned by small power groups,” he said. However, the Pope also underscored the importance of taking the discussion on hunger to a human level, in which conversation goes beyond rights and duties, and looks at those who are hungry themselves. “While we speak of new rights, the hungry remain at the street corner, and ask to be recognized as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity,” the Roman Pontiff voiced, saying that helpful theories can’t remain “in limbo,” but must be put into practice. Only when development plans and the work of international organizations respect the fundamental human rights, including the “rights of the hungry,” will relief efforts and humanitarian intervention gain momentum and yield greater results, he explained. Pope Francis also spoke of the need to grow in solidarity, saying that it is a virtue most societies lack due to the growing presence of individualism and division. “When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world,” he said, noting how it is an attitude which enables people to go beyond differences and reach out to others in an effort to seek the common good. States too, the pontiff observed, should be able to work together and help each other through the just principles and norms of international law. This law, he said, should be based on the natural law which fosters love, justice and peace. “Like people, States and international institutions are called to welcome and nurture these values, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening. In this way, the aim of feeding the human family becomes feasible.” It is the duty of every state, the Pope added, to care for the well-being of its citizens — a duty that requires perseverance and support. He reinforced the efforts of the Church in fighting hunger and caring for the dignity of the poor throughout the world, pointing to how the Holy See has spoken out in numerous documents and statements, and is involved in various international organizations. By doing these things the Church “contributes to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system,” the Pope continued, saying that these criterion ought to be based on pillars of truth, freedom and solidarity. The same goes for those in the legal field, he observed, saying that the same criteria should be used in defining the relationship between rights and food, the right to be protected by law, and the “obligation” of sharing economic wealth with the world. “No form of political or economic pressure that exploits the availability of foodstuffs can be considered acceptable (and) no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger,” he said. Pope Francis concluded his speech by urging everyone involved to place themselves at the service of those who suffer due to hunger, assisting them through close proximity and concrete action. “I also pray that the international community might hear the call of this Conference and consider it an expression of the common conscience of humanity: feed the hungry, save life on the planet.”
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