All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes. And that’s exactly where Bread for the World’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, found himself last week in an effort to continue spreading Bread’s message of ending hunger.
The Bishop of Rome – Pope Francis – was one of the people Beckmann saw when he was there to address the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on the need to end hunger and poverty. Beckmann was part of a panel of religious leaders that spoke to the WFP executive committee after a speech by Francis. It was a historic occasion for the agency because it’s the first time a pope has appeared there.
During his speech, the pope said, “A people plays out its future by its ability to respond to the hunger and thirst of its brothers and sisters. In that ability to come to the aid of the hungry and thirsty, we can measure the pulse of our humanity. For this reason, I desire that the fight to eradicate the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters, and with our brothers and sisters, will continue to challenge us to seek creative solutions of change and transformation.”
Although Bread is an ecumenical organization – a “collective Christian voice” – it has been pleased with the leadership of Pope Francis in raising the world’s consciousness on hunger. Since becoming pope, the leader of the world’s Roman Catholics has become a major voice from the religious community in advocating for an end to hunger. Bread and others have been latching on to his coattails with his large flock of followers and ability to shine a spotlight on long-ignored issues.
In his remarks, Beckmann discussed how faith-based organizations are uniquely powerful actors to end hunger. Both men, both clergy in their respective churches (Beckmann is an pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), were invited to appear during the WFP’s meetings on Inter-Religious Engagement for Zero Hunger as voices of faith and leaders of religious bodies.
“The feasibility of Zero Hunger has moral and spiritual implications,” Beckmann’s prepared remarks said. “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.”
The Rome event, a major milestone on the road to end hunger, comes during the important first year of work toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 global goals, which have been agreed to by U.N. member states, aim to tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. Bread believes the WFP should support faith-based and civil-society advocacy for Zero Hunger, the second of the SDGs.
Beckmann urged the WFP to become a hub of communications with faith and civil-society groups about Zero Hunger, the changes needed to achieve it, and how some faith and civil-society groups around the world are making a big impact through advocacy. He stressed that this new function at WFP is important to the achievement of Zero Hunger by 2030.
He affirmed Bread’s interest in the proposed Inter-religious Council on Ending Hunger. However, political will to end hunger is critical.
“Ending hunger by 2030 requires strong leadership from the U.S, which is the world’s largest development aid donor,” added Beckmann. “That is why it is critical during the 2016 elections that voters elect a president and a Congress committed to making ending poverty and hunger a priority.”
Following the WFP meetings, the agency released a document titled Voices of Faith: Statements from religious leaders and actors. It shows how two dozen religious leaders who were present at the meeting plan to engage in reaching the Zero Hunger goal.