Give Us Today Our Daily Food!
Two back-to-back International observances: the World Food Day (October 16th) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17th), once again puts the spotlight on the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and on ‘the very much more’ that needs to be done, at every level possible, in order to eradicate both hunger and poverty from the face of the earth.
Some effort was made at least theoretically with the signing of the Paris Agreement on ‘Climate Change’ recently. Whether the agreement will remain only ‘on paper’ or will move towards concrete action is anyone’s guess. As a significant step to the UN Climate Change Conference to be held in Morocco next month, the World Food Day this year focuses on ‘Climate is Changing: Food and Agriculture must too’
A FAO release states, “One of the biggest issues related to climate change is food security. The world’s poorest – many of whom are farmers, fishers and pastoralists – are being hit hardest by higher temperatures and an increasing frequency of weather-related disasters. At the same time, the global population is growing steadily and is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. To meet such a heavy demand, agriculture and food systems will need to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and become more resilient, productive and sustainable. This is the only way that we can ensure the well-being of ecosystems and rural populations and reduce emissions”.
The theme for Poverty Eradication Day is, ‘Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms.’ A powerful reminder of the poor; the slum- dwellers in our cities, the rural poor from our villages and others living in poverty are conveniently ostracized and discriminated against. For some people, they are ‘eyesores’. Many do not realize that the toil and tears, the sweat and blood of the poor have contributed to the so-called ‘progress’ of many a civilization! We need to recognize that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty.
Hunger and poverty today affect millions, in most countries. It is a reality which grips countless refugees and Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs). India for one is a land of unbelievable contrasts. Earlier this week,the Global Hunger Index (GHI) was released by the International Food Policy Research Institute. The Report gives India a very disgraceful and pathetic standing of 97 out of the 118 countries ranked on the GHI; this is far below China (29th place), and even below Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangla Desh. We should be ashamed of this. Our so-called leaders indulge in petty and divisive politics; they squander precious foreign resources in buying military warfare, which should never be a priority for a country like India. The foreign jaunts, the jamborees and the extravaganzas that are constantly on the ‘front page’, is merely a ruse to defocus from the more serious and urgent issues of hunger and poverty. The rich continue to amass wealth in scandalous proportions, and the gap between the rich and the poor widens day by day.
This week Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature; over the years, his poetry, his songs often highlighted the sufferings of those affected by violence and war: by hunger and poverty. In October 2009, on the release of his song album “Christmas in the Heart”, he said (donating all the royalties from that album to fight hunger) “that the problem of hunger is ultimately solvable means we must each do what we can to help feed those who are suffering and support efforts to find long-term solutions. I’m honoured to partner with the World Food Programme in their fight against hunger and homelessness.”
In 1962, he sang to the world that immortal song, “Blowin’ in the Wind’, the last stanza goes thus,
How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, ’n’ how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, ’n’ how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
Unfortunately, today the answer is not merely blowing in the wind, but it is living in all men and women. We need to do much more to help realise the prayer of the poor, “give us today our daily food”. The first question then is to ask from ourselves and from those who govern us, if we are ready to address the issues of hunger and poverty, the rights of the poor and the excluded, today itself?
About Author: Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is an Indian Jesuit priest and a human rights activist. He is currently based in Lebanon and engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications.