Tuesday, July 19, 2016

An Extraordinary Interfaith Document on Ending Hunger

Recognizing that it is within our collective means to end hunger, the world’s leaders made a firm commitment to do so by agreeing to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  Yet no single individual, agency or nation can achieve this ambitious agenda alone. Doing so requires fully harnessing strategic partnerships, including with religious communities, faith-inspired organizations, governments, international organizations, and other stakeholders.

 The moral imperative of feeding the hungry and caring for the poor lies at the heart of the world’s major religions. We share a common focus on and concern about the 800 million hungry people in the world.  -Ertharin Cousin, executive director, World Food Programme.

On June 13, Pope Francis addressed the executive committee of the World Food Programe (WFP) to offer his full support to the target of Zero Hunger and to give his perspective on the changes needed to end global hunger. The WFP organized two interfaith actions in conjunction with the Pope's address. One was a panel discussion of interfaith leaders, which included David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Ambassador Tony Hall, executive director emeritus of the Alliance to end Hunger.

“The feasibility of Zero Hunger has moral and spiritual implications,” said Beckmann. “It is no longer ethically sufficient to help people in need. We aren’t acting ethically unless we are helping to end hunger, which means advocating for the systemic changes that are required. God’s grace leads directly to advocacy to end hunger.”

In advance of Pope Francis' address, WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin invited religious leaders and scholars to Rome to offer their thoughts on the goal of Zero Hunger by the year 2030, which is the ultimate target of the Sustainable Development Goals that were announced in September 2015. A total of 24 religious leaders contributed statements to the document. The diversity of the group was impressive and included representatives of the Jewish, Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto and other traditions. Many made the statements on behalf of organizations, and not necessarily on behalf of a denominational body.

There was also broad diversity in the statements that came from Christian traditions, including the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Vatican, the World Evangelical Alliance, the African Instituted Churches, the Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the World Council of Churches. Representatives of ecumenical, interfaith and secular humanitarian agencies also contributed statements, including Bread for the World, the Alliance to End Hunger, Religions for International Peace, United Religions Initiative, Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement and others also contributed to the richness of the document.

Below  is a small sampling of excerpts from the contributions to the document. (Read the full document)
Hunger is directly linked to power relations. Power imbalances result in gender inequality, unfair trade policies that persistently impoverish poor communities, and structural barriers such as corruption and tax avoidance. We call for the transformation of power relations to ensure that “the least of these” have a seat at the policy-making table. Relations between rich and poor countries should foster, rather than strip poor and hungry communities of their right to dignity. -Rev. Nicta M. Lubaale is the General Secretary, Organization of African Instituted Churches
Just as we care for the members of our immediate family, tending their needs and ensuring their health and safety, so we must tend to the needs of the Earth family, particularly our sisters and brothers who sleep hungry each night, and our children who perish of starvation and malnutrition. -Swami Chidanand Saraswati is President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, India, and Co-Founder/Co-Chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
God has created us in such a way that in our first three or four years our survival depends on the care and love of others. And it is therefore the task of the human being to ensure that the basic needs of the child wherever and wherever born, are being fulfilled. Paramount amongst these needs is food security. We can only realize this universal commandment when we are truly conscious of the fact that humanity constitutes one body. When one part of the body aches the other parts of the body feel it. When pain is not felt throughout the body and remains isolated ,this condition constitutes the beginning of death. -Rabbi Arwaham Soetendorp, President and Founder Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values
Our hearts, along with those of millions of others of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, are filled with compassion for the many of God’s children who suffer from lack of daily sustenance and who therefore cope with the devastating effects of hunger and malnutrition. In our efforts to follow the teachings and actions of Jesus Christ, we feel a keen responsibility to extend help as well as hope to the hungry and to the homeless, both at home and abroad. We invite people everywhere to open their hearts and minds to this growing need and make resources available to the effort of eliminating hunger where they live.  -First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Hunger is a constant companion in Africa’s Sahel region. Hunger of the body walks alongside hunger of the spirit. Sheikh Amadou Bamba, founder of the Mouride confrérie and its spiritual inspiration, left us with this prayer that evokes the essence of Islamic teachings: “Preserve us from degradation, from penuries, from defeats, from misery, from hunger, and thirst. Oh Allah!” But he also demanded action, bringing the land under cultivation and teaching his followers the skills of farming. Making the dream of Zero Hunger a reality in our lifetime echoes the Mouride passion for community, a passion that links the spiritual quest with daily action and concern for the welfare of all. -Sheikh Saliou Mbacke, a Mouride leader and President, Cadre des Religieux pour la Santé et le Développement
The World Evangelical Alliance recognizes that addressing 'zero hunger' is not merely achieved through visualizing the abundance of food. Values of co-operation and opportunity highlight food systems of inclusive, safe, sustainable and resilient societies. Compassion is the motivation which acts on our God given responses to hunger with a commitment which looks beyond line ups of food handouts.  Commissioner Christine MacMillan is Director of Public Engagement, The World Evangelical Alliance

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