“The pursuit of economic justice takes believers into the pubic arena, testing the policies of government by the principles of our teaching. We ask you to become more informed and active citizens, using your voices and votes to speak for the voiceless, to defend the poor and the vulnerable and to advance the common good. We are called to shape a constituency of conscience, measuring every policy by how it touches the least, the lost, and the left out among us. This calls us to conversion and common action, to new forms of stewardship, service and citizenship.” USCCB, Economic Justice for All (#27, p.xv)
In September 2008, the 63rd session of the U.N. General Assembly was considering the Millennium Development Goals. These are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eradicating extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.
One other Millennium Development goal is to significantly reduce world hunger by 2015. With just a few years to go, much progress still needs to be made to reduce the global number of people battling hunger. Many hard-won achievements since the turn of the century in 2000 have been undone by current global economic, food, and fuel crises.
So during the session in 2008, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations in New York, asked the assembly how the world is able to find funds to save financial systems in industrialized countries of the North, but cannot find the resources necessary to invest in the “most destitute” nations of the South. The archbishop declared that he believed the Millennium Development Goals could still be achieved “if their attainment becomes a priority for all States.” To do so, he continued, “we need to foment a new culture of human relations marked by a fraternal vision of the world, a culture based upon the moral imperative of recognizing the unity of humankind and the practical imperative of giving a contribution to peace and the well-being of all.”
The comments by Archbishop Migliore present us with a pressing question: How are well-off nations of the industrialized North able to find funds to save a broken financial system yet remain unable to find the resources necessary to invest in the development of all regions of the Global South, beginning with the most destitute? The enormous proportions of funds to rescue failed banks and governments amounts to many times the whole of international aid.
There is a crucial moral obligation of the international community to return to global solidarity. With a coordinated global response – and an investment in small-scale farmers around the world – ending hunger is still possible. We have heard the voice of the Church and know our Gospel teachings. Now we must respond in faith and deed.
1. Are you surprised to learn how many people are hungry in the world and where they live? What do you find most interesting about the trends in world hunger at this time?
2. Do you agree that major new efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity are needed? If so, what form should these efforts take? Should taxpayer dollars being used? Or only charitable donations?
3. Do individuals or families in your community suffer food insecurity? If so, how does your church support them? How do other churches and faith groups in the community help those who are food insecure?
4. How does the story of the Emmaus meal echo the feeding of the multitude and the Last Supper? (Compare the language and context of Luke 24:30, 9:16, and 22:19.)
Emmaus meal (Luke 24:30)
While he was at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them.
Feeding the Multitude (Luke 9:16)
While he was at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed it, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them.
The Last Supper (Luke 22:19)
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
5. If we were, in the words of St. Vincent DePaul, “to serve others as we would serve Jesus Christ—always seeing our Lord in those who need us,” what practical differences would this make in our ministry to the poor and hungry?
6. Compare Psalm 146 with Jesus’ warning that the nations (or peoples) will be judged to be either sheep or goats (Matthew 25:31-46). What similarities and differences do you notice?
Put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth;
that day all their planning comes to nothing.
Happy those whose help is Jacob’s God, whose hope is in the Lord, their God,
the maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free; the Lord gives sight to the blind.
The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous.Matthew 25:44-45
They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”
He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Nine Actions to Fight Hunger and Injustice
Adapted from the Society of St. Andrew
“The preferential option for the poor flows from our understanding of Jesus himself, who became poor himself so that we might be rich in him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Aparecida, Brazil, May 2007)
Since we are called by our faith to be like Jesus, we too should identify with the hungry, the poor and those who thirst for justice. With that in mind, we are called to do something about hunger. While we may not be called to do the same thing, each of us is called to do something.
Because of the global scope of hunger and poverty, many people feel there is nothing one person can do. People often think the tragedy is too massive for one person’s action to be effective. That is not the case. Each of us can make an impact on behalf of our hungry brothers and sisters. Below are ten steps to help you fight the unnecessary plagues of hunger and poverty:
1. PRAY: We pray for those of our human family who do not have sufficient food and income. But we can also pray also for wisdom in discovering what to do to help those who suffer chronic hunger and persistent poverty.
2. BECOME INFORMED: Learn more about hunger and why people cannot escape their poverty. Read and study books, magazine articles, and newspaper stories dealing with hunger and poverty issues. Learn about hunger and poverty in your own community.
3. DISCUSS THE TRAGEDY OF HUNGER WITH YOUR FAMILY: It is important to help our families realize the scope of hunger and why some families have little or no income. Take time to discuss the issues raised by living in a hungry world with those nearest you.
4. RAISE AWARENESS OF OTHERS: When you share what you learn about hunger with others, you will find out that you are not alone in your concern for the hungry. Many of your friends and neighbors are also looking for ways to help.
5. FORM A LOCAL HUNGER ACTION GROUP: Help interested people in your church and/or community to organize on behalf of the hungry. Working together provides inspiration and support to tackle hunger head-on.
6. CONTRIBUTE TO A HUNGER MINISTRY: Most hunger ministries provide high service return. Many spend every dollar donated on hunger relief.
7. WORK TOWARD A MORE RESPONSIBLE LIFE STYLE: Most of us can consume less of the world’s resources than we now use. We certainly can be less wasteful and more mindful of the needs of our hungry and impoverished world.
8. BECOME AN ADVOCATE FOR THE HUNGRY: Speak on behalf of the hungry and the poor. They have little or no voice, but you can support public policies that help the hungry around the world, as well as around the corner.
9. VOLUNTEER: Most hunger relief organizations need the help of volunteers. Become involved in ministering directly to the needs of others by helping at a soup kitchen or food pantry. You can even help salvage food from farmers’ fields or grocery stores and deliver it to those in need.
START NOW! There is no better time to begin than right now. The fight against hunger begins with a first step. Take the first step by visiting these websites for ways to become involved and engaged:
Create change and educate your community on real solutions to the food crisis.
Vote with your voice – and your fork. Voting on election days for the right representatives to make the necessary laws and policies for food security and justice is essential. But “voting” can happen every day when you raise your fork: making ethical food choices can help shape an agricultural system built on economic justice. The foods we choose to eat should be grown or produced in a way that is fair to farmers, farm workers and food process workers, whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world.
Write an op-ed or letter to the editor. Draw on your own experiences to talk about the injustices of the food crisis and the real solutions.
Contact your other elected representatives. You have more direct access to your local, state and congressional representatives than to the President. Ask them what they are doing to address the food crisis. Use the ideas from the Call to Action and other materials on the above website to tell them what policies they need to support.
Learn more about “voting with your fork” by visiting the CRL website. We have produced a series of cards that are a handy way to bring attention to the issues of food production and why eating is a moral act. On our homepage at www.ncrlc.com, you will see sections on Food & Justice and the Ethics of Eating. This is where you will find more information on food security, as well as the sets of cards that will help you promote the advocacy actions above. Here you will also find language to help with writing an op-ed piece or a letter to a news editor. You may also want to send the cards to your elected officials and let them know you stand by these principles of economic justice for our agriculture and food system.
What can the U.S. Government do?
The United States plays a crucial role in assuring food security for the world. The U.S. is the biggest donor of food aid commodities, but it is also a major source of the food speculation and bio-fuel production that contributed to steep price rises. The U.S. Government should:
1. Maintain and increase funding for emergency and development programs; maintain the “safe box” that protects development food assistance and the stipulation that up to 25 percent of funds be used for local purchase.
2. Provide emergency funding to help low-income people in the United States who are adversely affected by rising food prices.
3. Review farm subsidies program to eliminate practices that do not comply with international trade obligations and that disadvantage poor farmers in other countries.
4. Properly balance economic incentives for biofuel production with the priority for sufficient nutritious foods, both domestically and internationally.
5. Greatly strengthen U.S. support to developing countries to help them increase their investments in agricultural research, extension, rural infrastructure and market access for poor small farmers.
6. Ensure that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission protects the basic need to the right for food for all, and prudently regulates the speculation of food commodities.
For more information visit:
Reforms to International Assistance Programs
In the Church’s vision, economic life should be guided by a moral framework that respects the life and dignity of every person. To that end, a functional economy would ensure nourishing foods for individuals and families on a daily basis. When the economy fails to do so, then a just society must provide food assistance until economic conditions are corrected.
In the face of hunger and poverty at the global level, international assistance is an urgent and persistent need. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Relief Services urge the U.S. to make the following reforms to our nation’s international assistance program:
Make human development the fundamental goal of U.S. international assistance. Our assistance should focus on reducing poverty, increasing the participation of poor people in development, and helping local governments and civil society develop plans to reduce poverty.
Create a development strategy that focuses on poverty reduction and human development. This strategy should, through coordination at the highest levels of government:
Address both immediate humanitarian needs and long-term development assistance, and balance broad global priorities in sectors such as health, agriculture, nutrition, water and sanitation, and education, with country specific needs.
Identify opportunities for more effective coordination with global actors to confront global challenges, such as climate change and soaring food and commodity prices, which are best addressed on a global level, and to reduce program duplication which places unnecessary burdens on recipients
Prioritize the poorest. At least half to two thirds of all U.S. international assistance should be allocated to poor countries and communities.
Provide assistance to failed or failing states and those emerging from conflict. This will enhance global stability and our own national security. We should help these governments serve their people, respect human rights, and strengthen civil society (civic and social organizations that are not part of government).
Give development a status and structure that places it alongside diplomacy and defense as the “third leg” of U.S. foreign policy. Civilian agencies such as USAID should be in leadership and control of development efforts. This will help ensure that long-term development goals do not become subordinated to short-term security and political concerns.
Increase our commitment to poverty reduction by ensuring that sufficient resources, both financial and human, are available to meet long-term development needs and address emerging and unanticipated humanitarian needs.
Gradually increase overall foreign assistance so that it meets a commitment that was made by richer nations, including the U.S., to devote 0.7% of their national income to global development. (The U.S. currently spends about 0.2 % in this area.)
In the eyes of the Church, a moral framework for economic justice and food security also takes shape within the realm of global trade. In the trade of global goods, the market must be measured in respect to a fair and just sharing of the bounty of the earth and the fruits of human labor. It is frequently the case that existing inequalities between countries and within countries remain unchanged or even widen through “liberalized” trade, increasing the numbers of people living in poverty or further marginalized from a life of human dignity. Therefore, we must take care to ensure the following:
Livelihoods of farmers and food security.
Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend on farming for their livelihoods. Poor farmers are often not able to compete with much more efficient, highly subsidized farmers in developed countries. Trade policy must address the needs of small and medium-sized farms both in the U.S. and abroad in developing countries.
Worker rights and environmental protection.
While certain labor and environmental provisions are included in new trade agreements, it is critical that they be demonstrably effective in leading to stronger protection of fundamental worker rights and the environment.
Poverty reduction and sustainable development.
Trade policies cannot be created in isolation from other international assistance, debt relief and development initiatives. Instead, trade must be integrated with measures to reduce poverty and improve education, health care, and democratic participation.
What will you do to make a difference?
As mentioned earlier, no one person or group can solve domestic or world hunger. But each person can do something to help and that will make a difference. After considering all the actions listed in this study guide, try this:
1) Write down one or more actions on a slip of paper.
2) Post your slip of paper where you will see it often.
3) Consider organizing a hunger & justice group with fellow participants or others in your church or community.