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Pope: selfish economic models drive world hunger

By on Monday, 4 July 2011

Somali women displaced by severe drought queue for food handouts (CNS photo)

Somali women displaced by severe drought queue for food handouts (CNS photo)

Pope Benedict XVI has said persistent world hunger is a “tragedy” driven by selfish and profit-driven economic models, whose first victims are millions of children deprived of life or good health.

In responding to the crisis, international agencies should rediscover the value of the family farm, promoting the movement of young people back into rural areas, the Pope said in an address to participants in an annual conference on hunger organised by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Meeting with the group at the Vatican, the Pope strongly emphasised the theme of economic justice that has figured prominently in his encyclicals and other writings. He noted that millions of men, women and children remain without adequate nourishment today.

“My thoughts turn toward the situation of millions of children, who are the first victims of this tragedy, condemned to an early death or to a delay in their physical or psychic development, or forced into forms of exploitation just to receive minimal nutrition,” he said.

The Pope said the cause of such hunger cannot be found only in technical developments such as production cycles or commodity prices.

“Poverty, underdevelopment and, therefore, hunger are often the result of selfish behaviours that, born in the human heart, manifest themselves in social life, economic exchange, in market conditions and in the lack of access to food,” the Pope said.

“How can we be silent about the fact that even food has become the object of speculation or is tied to the course of a financial market that, lacking definite rules and poor in moral principles, appears anchored to the sole objective of profit?” he said.

The Pope said the United Nations’ own studies showed that global food production was able to feed the world’s population – which made the situations of hunger all the more unjust.

The international community often limits its food assistance to emergency situations, he said. Instead, he told the experts, it needs to address the problem with long-term strategies that consider the human dimension of development and not just economic benefits.

The Pope called for support of international efforts to promote the family farm as a key component of national economies. The traditional nuclear family, he said, had shown itself to be a competent instrument for agricultural production and for training of new generations in farming.

“The rural family is a model not only of work, but of life and the concrete expression of solidarity, in which the essential role of the woman is confirmed,” he said.

The Pope said food security also required protective measures against “frenetic exploitation of natural resources”. This is especially true because the race to consumption and waste seems to ignore the threat to the genetic patrimony and biological diversity, which are so important to agricultural activity, he said.

He said the Bible’s injunction to “cultivate and care for the earth” was opposed to exclusive appropriation of such natural resources.

  • ms catholic state

    But are the UN even interested in listening to the Pope?!  Or is it all just for show.  We know what the UN thinks about population growth etc……and it’s not what the Vatican thinks!  The Vatican needs to form its own coterie of pro-Christian nations.

    The UN already has its own agenda…..and isn’t interested in changing course. The Pope’s words are falling on deaf ears here.

  • Jeannine

    There should be no reason why there are people in this world who are hungry. We have the science & technology to eradicate hunger. 

    That said, free market systems do not cause hunger but has been shown to decrease the rate of hunger & poverty when governments embrace it. Where people are starving is where the government is corrupt. Reform the inept government while incorporating a free market system & the people in that country will flourish.

  • James H

    “the United Nations’ own studies showed that global food production was
    able to feed the world’s population – which made the situations of
    hunger all the more unjust.”

    Definitely! There were riots over the price of food a year or two ago, caused by nothing more than the Biofeuls industry offering third-world farmers over the odds for non-food crops. And of course the trendy press managed to make it look like the cause was overpopulation.

  • Aisake

    His Holiness has clearly illustrate that hunger is no longer an issue but a disaster in the sense that it has been developed and create by us, human  through our selfishness, greedy, self – centered and self- oriented behavior. The research has reveal that food planted was enough for the world but those disaster above create problem and the effect is unacceptable where innocent children have suffered lead to their death. Lord have mercy on us and give us humility, love and kindness to value human lives.

  • RJ

    I find it significant that the Pope implied that profit shouldn’t be the sole motive. This is important for business people and investors, including those investing in pension funds: it points toward socially responsible investment. In the US there are investment funds that select according to Catholic criteria. This is one way of exerting pressure on business to act responsibly (and a good way of avoiding profiting from contraceptives/abortifacients/worker exploitation/environmental degradation). Unfortunately, the choice is much more restricted in the UK. If there were more demand for it, of course….

  • Anonymous

    I agree with everything the Pope says about this.  The reality is that it would take a complete restructuring of the global capitalist model to enable equitable sharing of global food supplies – something that just won’t happen.  Global capitalism as we knew it would have collapsed two years ago had it not been for taxpayer bailouts – the antithesis of the capitalist,’weakest go to the wall’ ethos.  More major economic shocks are certain to happen.  Perhaps something more enlightened will come out of the other side, and the world’s poor may benefit.  Perhaps…

  • Martin

    The problem is, whilst the country or countries may want to be identified as Christian, the Government of those countries are all/ or in the main, servants of the UN or the EU and would never identify themselves as Christian (because it offends atheists, holds lacks morals to account and says there is value to life even for the unborn. Imagine seriously believing in Jesus in Government! What would the world come to…..although if it doesnt turn soon, i can bet were it will end up).

    I like the idea, but who would the Pope work with? He can only work with elected goverments but unfortuately i am not convinced the people there fully represent the “Christian” faith of the majority…..even if lukewarm.

    It would seem the only thing we are not allowed to do, or, are actively steered away from when considering who is presented for selection for Government is the most important thing!!!! The integrity and morality of the person being selected!

  • ms catholic state

    I don’t think that is completely true.  Think Poland, Malta, Phillipines,  Croatia etc.  And such a coalition of Christian nations needn’t negate their membership of the UN or the EU or NATO or whatever.  It would just strengthen their identity as Christian……and their belief that Christianity is the best foundation for a nation.

    If the Pope didn’t like to be involved…..a nation such as Poland could instigate everything.  And then of course the Pope would give his blessing.  It’s just that there is no platform globally for Christianity in the political sphere…..but every other shared interest group has their own coalitions and alliances and ‘support groups’ etc

  • ms catholic state

    And such a coalition of pro-Christian nations would act as a concrete example of Christianity at work… the whole of the globe.  This we don’t have at the moment….as you so rightly say…..the godless UN and EU are making all the moves and bringing all to themselves.

  • Martin

    Now you are starting to win me over a bit more. I like this version of Christendom better than other ways you have explained or envisaged before. (if not actually, then if only from my perception). Food for thought.

  • ms catholic state

    Oh good.  That’s progress then :)

  • ms catholic state

    As someone said on the radio recently…..there is enough food in the world to feed everybody….it’s just that many people can’t afford it! 

  • Duncan Pugh

     This is a welcome statement from a man with so much influence … the Diggers of 17th Century England would have agreed with him … and there is no shortage of land, even in a country as densely populated as the UK … the question is: Who owns it? Is it being put to good use? Royalty and no are probably the answers!

  • Parasum

    The problem is, in large part, that Communism is alive and well; reports of its death were premature. And as long as it survives, and is not denounced by the Church, people will starve. The Pope is doing a fantastic job of not denouncing Communism – talk about an elephant in the room ! It’s pointless to expose the evil in capitalism, if he does not also denounce the hellish lie that is atheistic Communism. Pius XI was wiser by far – what a pity that John XXIII thought that sentimentalism (see: Theo Dalrymple, *passim*) could be a match for the evil that is Communism.

    “The traditional nuclear family, he said, had shown itself to be a
    competent instrument for agricultural production and for training of new
    generations in farming.” Wouldn’t the extended family be a better “instrument” ?

  • Duncan Pugh

    Yes I thought it odd that he chose to say nuclear family … how would pantheistic communism go with you?

  • LocutusOP

    I agree with your reasoning, but given that many members of the ruling classes even in supposedly Catholic states oppose Christian teaching, it’s up to the electorate to do its bit.

    Sadly, most voters seem not to find any room for Christian conscience when they cast their ballots.