The president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, has said hunger and malnourishment are tragic, horrendous and scandalous and must be urgently addressed by a sense of Christian humanism.
In an intervention on the first day of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Working Group on “Bread and Brain, Education and Poverty” which takes place in the Vatican from 4-6 November, Cardinal Turkson praised the theme of the conference as it relates hunger and poverty to education.
“They refer to the situation, both tragic and scandalous, of millions of impoverished human beings who lack nourishment for body, mind and spirit, that is, both food and education,” he said, adding that it “reminds us that the intrinsic correlation between brain development and nourishment.”
These inspired the first two Millennium Development Goals, he added, namely the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger, and universal primary education. “In response, school feeding programmes have sprung up around the globe, in developed and developing countries,” the Ghanaian cardinal noted.
The conference broaches the issue of basic rights and needs, the issue of human dignity and the issue of justice and peace, he continued, and cited Pope Benedict XVI, who said “the elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet.”
Cardinal Turkson said: “Malnutrition of mind and body – lack of food and lack of learning – is a horrendous double helix. It must be addressed with great urgency, but not only by sound scientific research and solid social policies in order to achieve real improvements in education, food production and distribution, sustainable agriculture and nutrition security. As a coefficient of development or under-development, it must be addressed, above all, with a rediscovered sense of Christian humanism, characterised by solidarity and brotherhood.”
He said his prayer was that these discussions may contribute to the “essential larger dialogue” which must address “many obstacles of different kinds that are retarding a fair global solution to the problems of poverty and hunger, whose main root is first and finally the lack of brotherhood among persons and peoples.“
“Let us bring our best energies to the common task in the greatest spiritual freedom,” he said.
And he noted that in the Lord’s Prayer “we address not “my” but “our” Father, we plead not for “my” but for “our” daily bread. By saying “our” and praying on behalf of everyone who shares a single common origin in God our Creator, we engage ourselves to take up the task of producing and distributing food and of making education available to all his sons and daughters, to all our brothers and sisters.”
May the Church thus accompany the poor, he concluded, and may “a new double helix of nutrition and learning become part of our human makeup, thanks to this Working Group whose labours we entrust to the Almighty.”