On Monday Pope Francis issued a lengthy appeal to address the problem of world hunger not only through talk, but concrete action by going to the root of the problem and introducing a new global mentality aimed at love rather than profit. With the risk of indifference rising as deaths due to hunger, abandonment or war are reported on a daily basis, “we urgently need to find new ways to transform the possibilities we have into a guarantee that will allow each person to face the future with established confidence, and not only with some illusion,” the Pope said Oct. 16.
In light of the vast portions of the global population who continue to suffer from malnutrition, war, climate change, forced migration and various forms of exploitation, “we can and must change course,” he said. Noting how some would say simply “reducing the number of mouths to feed” would be enough to solve the problem of food shortage and global inequality, Francis said this is “a false solution” given current patterns of waste and consumption in some areas of the world. Rather, he proposed “sharing” as a more effective strategy, which “implies conversion, and this is demanding.”
Francis spoke during his annual address to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which estimates that across the board, a third of food produced in the world each year is wasted, amounting to some 1.3 billion tons. He suggested a change in language used on the international scene which is focused on “the category of love, conjugated as gratuitousness, equal treatment, solidarity, a culture of gift, brotherhood and mercy.” “These words express, effectively, the practical content of the term 'humanism,' often used in international activity,” he said.
Francis also highlighted the relationship between hunger and forced migration, saying the problem can only be solved “ if we go to the root of the problem,” rather that coming up with superficial solutions. Referencing various studies, the Pope noted that the main underlying causes of hunger, which in itself prompts many to migrate, are “conflicts and climate change.” The effects of climate change are felt on a daily basis, he said, explaining that thanks to science, the international community already knows how to face the problem.
He praised initiatives such as the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, and urged nations to uphold the agreement. However, he noted that “unfortunately, some are moving away from (it).” Though Pope Francis mentioned no one specifically, his reference includes the United States, which pulled out of the agreement June 1 as President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would pursue other means of addressing the environmental issue which are more favorable to Americans.
In terms of conflict, the Pope pointed to various “martyred populations” suffering from decades of war, many of which “could have been avoided or at least stopped, and yet they spread such disastrous and cruel effects as food insecurity and the forced displacement of peoples.” To overcome these conflicts, both “good will and dialogue” are needed, as well as firm and total commitment to a “gradual and systemic disarmament” in war zones.
“What is the point of denouncing that, because of military conflicts, millions of people are victims of hunger and malnutrition, if we do not act effectively in the interest of peace and disarmament?” he said. “It is clear that wars and climate change are an occasion for hunger, so let us avoid, then, presenting it as an incurable illness.” Human mobility, he said, can and must be managed by a coordinated and systemic action on the parts of governments that are in accord with existing international standards, and which are “impregnated with love and intelligence.”
In terms of solutions, he said it's possible to stop the use of weapons of mass destruction because the world has recognized “the destructive capacity of these weapons.” However, he asked whether “we equally aware of the effects of the poverty and exclusion?” People who are “willing to risk everything” to escape violence, hunger, poverty or climate change won't be stopped by physical, economic, legislative or ideological barriers, he said, explaining that “a coherent application of the principle of humanity” is the only thing capable of addressing the problem.
Francis urged “a broad and sincere” dialogue at all levels of society in order for “the best solutions” to be found and for new relationships to be formed which are characterized by “mutual responsibility, solidarity and communion.” Although current initiatives in place are praiseworthy, “they are not enough,” he said, and stressed the need to promote and develop new actions and financial programs “which combat hunger and structural misery more effectively and with high hopes of success.”
In developing these new tactics, it's necessary to avoid the temptation “to act in favor of small groups of the population” or to used aid funding “inappropriately, favoring corruption, or lack of legality,” he said.
Closing his remarks, the Pope voiced the desire for the Catholic Church to directly participate in the various efforts being pursued and implemented given her mission, “which leads it to love everyone and also forces it to remind those who have national or international responsibility of the great duty to meet the needs of the poorest.”
Francis, who received a standing ovation for his speech, gifted the FAO with a marble statue commemorating Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee boy whose body washed up on the shores of Turkey in 2015 after a failed attempt to cross the Mediterranean.