News Headlines > World runs risk of 'bureaucratising' hunger, Pope warns UN food agency

13 June 2016 | by Christopher Lamb

World runs risk of 'bureaucratising' hunger, Pope warns UN food agency

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Human suffering is in danger of becoming merely a bunch of statistics, Francis laments at UN speech


Combating hunger is not an exercise in shuffling paper but having the compassion to help people who are starving, Pope Francis said today in a speech to a United Nations agency in Rome. 

He argued that too often human suffering was seen merely as a statistic while an “information overload” of tragic situations meant that extreme poverty is increasingly accepted as normal.

“Without faces and stories, human lives become statistics and we run the risk of bureaucratising the sufferings of others,” the Pope said today during an address this morning at the World Food Programme headquarters. “Bureaucracies shuffle papers; compassion deals with people. Here I believe that we have much to do.”

Francis explained that while the media has helped mobilise responses it had paradoxically made people immune to tragedies. “We are bombarded by so many images that we see pain, but do not touch it,” he said. “All those human lives turn into one more news story.”

The Pope continued: “It is not enough to offer broad reflections or engage in endless discussion, constantly repeating things everyone knows. We need to ‘de-naturalise’ extreme poverty, to stop seeing it as a statistic rather than a reality. Why? Because poverty has a face! It has the face of a child.”

During the speech Francis also re-iterated his view that wasting food is like stealing from the poor and that the “fruits of the earth” have been turned into commodities for a few. 

“The consumerism in which our societies are immersed has made us grow accustomed to excess and to the daily waste of food,” he said, adding that the earth had been “abused and exploited” so that food was no longer a “gift with a universal destination.” 

A closeness to the poor and a desire to fight poverty has been the driving feature of this papacy. His visit to the UN food programme headquarters today was the first by a Pope and follow major speeches he has given to the UN in New York and Nairobi. 

Also during his address Francis re-iterated his condemnation of the arms trade: he pointed out that while aid and development projects are hindered by “incomprehensible political decisions” weapons circulate freely. “As a result, wars are fed, not people,” he said. 

The Pope concluded by praising the work of the World Food Programme, a body which provides 80 million people with food assistance in 82 countries each year.

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