Pope's Message to FAO Director

“Those who suffer food insecurity and malnutrition are persons, not numbers”

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Here is a translation of the Pope’s message Friday to the director of the FAO on the occasion of World Food Day. The theme this year was Family Agriculture: ”Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.”

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To Mister Jose Graziano da Silva

Director General of FAO

Yet another year, the World Food day echoes the cry of so many of our brothers and sisters, in different parts of the world, who do not have their daily bread. Moreover, it makes us think of the enormous quantity of food that is wasted, the products that are destroyed, the speculation with prices in the name of the god of profit. It is one of the most dramatic paradoxes of our time, which we witness with impotence, but often also with indifference, “incapable of sympathizing in face of others’ clamor, […] as if it is someone’s else’s responsibility, and no concern of ours” (Evangelii Gaudium, 54).

In spite of the advances that are being realized in many countries, the latest data continues to present a disturbing situation, to which the general decrease in public aid for development has contributed. However, beyond the data, there is an important aspect of the problem, which has yet to receive due consideration in policies and plans of action: those who suffer food insecurity and malnutrition are persons, not numbers, and precisely because of their dignity of persons, they are above any calculation or economic plan.

The theme proposed by FAO for the present Day – Family Agriculture: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth – also highlights persons’ need to share, as individuals or groups, when it comes to proposing new forms and ways of management of the different aspects of food. Concretely, it is necessary to recognize increasingly the role of the rural family and to develop all its potentialities. This year dedicated to family agriculture, which is now ending, has served to verify yet again that the rural family can respond to the lack of foods without destroying the resources of creation. However, in order to do so, we must be attentive to its needs, not only the technical but also the human, spiritual and social; moreover, we must learn from its experience, from its capacity to work and especially from the bond of love, solidarity and generosity that exists among its members, and which is called to become a model for social life.

The family, in fact, fosters dialogue between different generations and lays the foundation for real social integration, in addition to representing the desired synergy between agricultural work and sustainability: who, more than the rural family, is concerned to preserve nature for the next generations? And who, more than the family, is interested in cohesion between persons and social groups? In the local, national and international ambit, the norms and initiatives in favour of the family are certainly very far from fulfilling its real needs and this is a deficit that must be tackled. It is very good to speak of the rural family and to observe international years to recall its importance, but it is not sufficient: those reflections must give way to concrete initiatives.

To defend rural communities in face of the grave threats of human action and of natural disasters should not only be a strategy but a permanent action that fosters their participation in decision-making, which puts suitable technologies within they reach and extends their use, always respecting the environment. To act in this way can change the way of carrying out international cooperation and help those who are hungry or suffer malnutrition.

Never as at this moment has the world needed persons and nations to unite to overcome the existing divisions and conflicts, and especially to look for concrete ways to come out of a crisis that is global, but whose weight is borne primarily by the poor. This is demonstrated, in fact, by the food insecurity: although it is true that, in different measures, it affects all countries, the weaker part of the worldwide population receives its effects before and more strongly. Let us think of the men and women, of all ages and conditions, who are victims of bloody conflicts and of their consequences of destruction and misery, among them, the lack of a home, of medical care, of education. They even lose all hope of a fitting life. In regard to them, we have in the first place the obligation to be solidaristic and to share. This obligation cannot be limited to the distribution of food, which can remain only a “technical” gesture, more or less effective, but which ends when the supplies allocated to this end finish.

To share, instead, means to be a neighbour to all men, to recognize our common dignity, to be attentive to their needs and to help them remedy them, with the same spirit of love that is lived in a family. That same love leads us to take care of creation, as the most precious common good on which depends – not an abstract future of the planet, but the life of the human family, to which it has been entrusted. This care requires education and formation capable of integrating the different cultural views, usages, ways of work in each place, without replacing them in the name of an alleged cultural or technical superiority.

To overcome hunger it is not enough to palliate the needs of the most unfortunate or to give aid and donations to those living in emergency situations. It is necessary, in addition, to change the paradigm of aid and development policies, to modify international rules in the matter of production and commercialization of agrarian products, guaranteeing countries, in which agriculture is the basis of their economy and survival, the self-determination of their agricultural market.

How much longer will systems of production and consumption be defended, which exclude the majority of the world’s population, including from the crumbs that fall from the table of the rich? The moment has arrived to think and to decide in favour of each person and community, and not from the situation of the markets. Consequently, there should also be a change in the way of understanding work, economic objectives and activity, food production and the protection of the environment. Perhaps this is the only possibility to build a genuine future of peace, which today is also threatened by food insecurity.

This focus, which presents a new idea of cooperation, should interest and involve all States, institutions and organizations of civil society, as well as communities of believers that, with many initiatives, often live with the least and share their situations and privations, frustrations and hopes.

For her part, the Catholic church while continuing her charitable activity in the different continents, is ready to offer, illumine and support both the elaboration policies as well as her concrete action, conscious that the faith is made visible by putting God’s plan for the human family and for the world into action, through profound and real fraternity, which is not exclusive to Christians, but includes all peoples.

May Almighty God bless the FAO, its Member States and all those who give the best of themselves, to feed the world and care for the earth for thebenefit of all.

Vatican, October 16, 2014

FRANCISCUS

[Original text: Spanish] [Translation by ZENIT]
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