Everyone Has a Right to Eat, Says Pope

Sends Message for U.N. World Food Day

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that all people have a right to healthy and sufficient food, and that human egotism, more than natural disasters, is the cause of the phenomenon of wide-scale hunger.

The Pope stated that position in a message marking today’s celebration of the World Food Day, sponsored by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The Holy Father called for a “consciousness of solidarity […] among the community of nations, a consciousness that considers food a universal right for all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.”

The Pontiff said he considers the theme chosen for this day, “The Right to Food,” as a tool to aid reflection in preparation for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“This coincidence helps us to think of the importance that the right to food has for the happy procurement of other rights, beginning before all with the fundamental right to life,” Benedict XVI said.

The Pope lamented that the number of starving people in the world is not diminishing significantly. He said: “This is due, perhaps, to a tendency to act motivated, solely or mainly, by technical and economic incentives, forgetting the priority of the ethical dimension of ‘feed the hungry.’

“This priority is linked to the sentiment of compassion and solidarity proper to human beings, which brings them to share with each other, not just in material things, but rather the love that all of us need. Effectively, we give too little if we only give material things.”

Human causes

The Holy Father explained that data show the causes of hunger to be “situations provoked by the behavior of people, which flow from a general social, economic and human deterioration” more than natural disasters or similar causes.

And the Pontiff noted “an ever growing number of persons that, because of poverty or bloody conflicts, find themselves obliged to leave their houses and their loved ones to look for survival away from their homeland. Despite international commitments, many of them are rejected.”

He continued: “The objective of eradicating hunger and at the same time, being able to count on sufficient and healthy food, also requires specific methods and actions that permit a utilization of resources respectful of the patrimony of creation.

“To work in this direction is a priority that implies not only benefiting from the results of science, investigation and technology, but also taking into account the cycles and rhythms of nature known by people in rural zones, as well as protecting the traditional practices of indigenous communities, leaving aside purely egotistical and economic reasoning.”

The papal message concludes considering the particular situation of children, who the Pope called “the first victims of this tragedy.”

He recalled that children’s physical or psychological development is sometimes hampered because of hunger, and noted that “on so many occasions, [children are] forced to work or enlisted by armed groups in exchange for receiving a few bites of food.”

“In this respect,” the Pontiff said, “I place my hope in the initiatives that have begun on a multilateral level to favor school food programs, which allow entire communities whose existence is threatened by hunger, to view the future with more hope.”

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