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Making a Difference With World Hunger

This excerpt was taken from a speech the author gave at a Faith at Work breakfast at St. Olaf Church, Minneapolis, last April 16.

BY Jean-Loup Dherse

February 14-20, 1999 Issue | Posted 2/14/99 at 1:00 PM

 

What is the bridge that takes us to individual actions from decisions that we make regarding the state of the world? There must be some bridge. World hunger gives an example of how to find this bridge.

95% of the hungry in the world are in structures of chronic poverty. 800 million people are currently hungry. 40 years ago the number was the same. Is this success?

On the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace, we tried to look at world hunger from four angles:

1. The quantifiable approach

Production of food has increased considerably over the past 40 years: significantly faster than world population. But the problem still exists.

2. Structure

These are political, institutional, legal, organizational aspects. Good structure does not solve everything but it is very important. We must improve the opportunity for more people to bring their talents to this common task of food production. Removing shackles to production increases yield worldwide. Structural reform begins at home.

3. Behavior

The key to behavior is mutual trust. When mutual trust cannot be inspired, force can be applied or we can try to buy ourselves out of a problem. Neither of these options is desirable.

4. Examine motivations

What are the motivations in a given situation: personal (money, prestige), institutional (working for an organization), concern for people (love for others)? How does everybody benefit from a decision? Does everybody benefit from a decision? If not, find another [solution]. Look more deeply at the situation.

Concern for people will lead us to better solutions. We are talking about a concern that goes to the root of the issue. This concern changes the type of decision we will accept.

Poverty is an indicator that our systems are not working well. They are like a danger light on the global dashboard. There is something fundamental that we are doing that is wrong and we need to attend to our systems.

Without concern for people, we are more likely to participate in the structure of sin, as Pope John Paul II calls it. To reverse this requires courage; heroes are needed.

Whatever we do, as individuals and nations, has consequences for the poor. There is a ripple affect with these things. We are all members of a system of universal co-responsibility.

The world has been, and is being, conceived by the Lord in a way which allows the proper harmony of individual interest, institutional interest, and concern for people.

This harmony can be called the common good. This is not an abstraction. It should be a lens through which we look at situations before we make decisions.

The poor need a legitimate voice. We must hear from them directly and not through intermediaries.

The vision of the poor is unique and is necessary to make a decision that brings this harmony. The world is simultaneously beautiful and deeply wounded. (Adapted from www.saintolaf. org.)