Today, His Holiness Pope Francis visited the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). This was the first papal visit to the WFP, and Pope Francis spoke of his support for the goal of eradicating hunger.
Zero Hunger is the second of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in September 2015, to guide global development efforts for the next 15 years. When one in nine people on the planet goes hungry, it is important to see leaders such as Pope Francis pushing for progress.
Pope Francis spoke to WFP staff at their headquarters in Rome, as well as via webcast to as many as 14,000 WFP staff members. In his address, he spoke of an information overload, brought to us by the various technologies at our disposal.
We are bombarded by so many images that we see the pain, but we don’t touch it; we hear the weeping, but we don’t comfort it; we see the thirst but we do not quench it. And in this way, many human lives turn into yet one more news story. One that will soon be replaced by another. While the headlines may change pain, hunger and thirst do not change. They remain.
He urges us to stop seeing hunger and poverty as statistics—we must “denaturalize” poverty.
Let us be very clear on this. A shortage of food is not something natural, it is not a given, it’s not something that is to be taken for granted, a self-evident fact. The fact that today, well into the twenty-first century, so many people are suffering hunger is due to a selfish and wrong distribution of resources, to the “commodization” of food.
He spoke on the connection between conflict and hunger, and the need to “de-bureaucratize” hunger.
We need true heroes, heroes to blaze the trails, to build the bridges, to open up channels and reach towards the faces of those who are suffering. The initiatives of the international community must be directed to this end.
And he offered words of encouragement to WFP staff.
Do not grow weary though at times the path may be tiring. Do not let the difficulties discourage you. Believe in what you are doing and pursue your goals enthusiastically. This is how the seeds of generosity grow and bear fruit and bear it abundantly. Grant yourselves the luxury of dreaming, we need people capable of dreaming to move these projects forward.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. WFP and Heifer International are both members of InterAction, an alliance organization of 180-plus NGOs around the world. We are proud to stand with them in the quest to eradicate global hunger.