Did you know that there are now almost a billion hungry people across the globe?
The report provided by the World Food Programme (WFP), Food and Agriculture Administration (FAO) and other similar organizations contains certain dismaying as well as bullish statistics on World Hunger and Malnutrition. Some of these hunger facts are as follows:
1. That 842 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat, which means that 1 in every 8 people goes to bed hungry each night;
2. That 1 child dies every 10 seconds from hunger; That most of the world’s hungry people are found in Southern Asia, Africa and Eastern Asia;
3. That it costs only US $0.25 per day to provide a child with all of the vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to grow up healthy; and
4. That Poverty is one of the causes of Hunger and that it is possible to eliminate Hunger.
On the other hand, Oxfam International released a report this year indicating some startling statistics, to wit:
1. That almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just 1% of the population;
2. That the wealth of the 1% richest people (about 85 of them only) in the world amounts to $110 trillion, which is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population; and
3. That in the US, the wealthiest 1% captured 95% of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 % became poorer.
The foregoing data on Hunger prompted me to reflect on Jesus Christ’s Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes where He taught the Apostles and the large crowd (5,000 men, excluding women and children) about caring and sharing, which happened to be the Gospel on 1st Sunday of August. Likewise, the said data reminds me of our Christian obligation as enumerated in the Corporal Works of Mercy which includes the feeding of the hungry, among others.
What happened during the time when Jesus performed the said miracle may seem like a déjà vu — this is practically what is happening now. At present, there are so many people throughout the world suffering from hunger. The only difference is that Jesus is not physically here with us to perform the said miracle in order to feed the hundreds of millions of people. But with Jesus remaining in our hearts, He relies on us, He wants us to do the same – to fulfill our social responsibility to help others especially those who could not afford to have full meal everyday.
Come to think of it, if the entire 1% mega wealthy people in the world would have the heart and the sincerity to share their wealth for the poor in any form, be it monetary or non-monetary, it would definitely be not impossible to eradicate world’s poverty. If that happens, no more people would have grumbling noises in their stomachs, no more poor kids would be dying from hunger, no more poor families would be begging for food on streets and there would be no poor people searching for food in trash bins.
However for some rich people, to donate a portion of their “bucks” is no easy task due to certain reasons (e.g. that they have worked hard for it, etc.), much more for the middle class who believes they can’t afford to give. If only everyone has the empathy for the poor and the disadvantaged, the world will be safer, kinder, happier, thus making it a much better place to live in.
In Metro Manila’s urban poor communities, it is visible and a common knowledge that some of the poorest of the poor skip meals because they could not afford to buy the food they need. Other poor families get to be luckily fed with the so-called “pagpag”, which are “left-overs” from restaurants and fast food diners. They go around the trash bins outside these food establishments to look for food, sort out the good ones, wash it and re-heat the same for their meal. For them, that’s one way to survive and struggle for existence, and yes, for them this is something better than with nothing to eat at all. But, is it right that some of our brothers and sisters have to skip meals or resort to eating “pagpag”?
Feeding the hungry across the globe can’t be done by a large organization alone, how much more by few individuals. Taking some of our precious time to feed the hungry and getting out from our comfort zones should initiate from all of us by cooperating and working together. If some of us have been blessed to have so much food on our tables, God would be happy to see the goodness in our hearts, sharing the said blessing of abundance to the people who lacks it. Perhaps, we could begin giving out our extra food-shopped items which are over stocking our pantries to our poor neighbors, before the food items nears their expiration dates rather than putting it to waste. Another way is by preparing/cooking meals for the homeless and those with nothing to eat . Furthermore, we can also volunteer our time to certain organizations whose advocacy is to help the poor people survive their day to day needs. Ahh, there are so many things to help for this cause. It is definitely not difficult to extend a hand to those in need, in fact we gain more! Do you still remember the old adage: It is better to give than to receive? There is joy in giving and when we give, the return is enormous. We gain partial or plenary indulgences from performing certain acts of mercy.
Pope Francis fully supports any endeavor to end world hunger. In fact, one of his ministry’s concerns is to uplift the standard of living of the poor people. Last year, he backed the campaign of the Catholic Church spearheaded by Caritas Internationalis, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, basically to fight for and possibly end hunger.
Pope Francis reminded us that God should be the center in charity giving, and it should be done out of love for Him. When we give, we should refrain from making it known to the whole world with some “photo ops” and “outward show”. The intent for helping others should be sincere and not for any personal gains on earth.
The Miracle of the loaves and fishes may not only involve the feeding of people with physical hunger but also those with needs of spiritual nourishment. This is also one of our obligations to help those who crave for our love and concern and ultimately for God’s mercy and love.The said miracle merely reiterates God’s greatest commandment, i.e., for us to love our neighbors especially those in need.
What If God asks us on Final Judgment Day, if we have done our duties well, are we ready to answer in a positive way? He will say: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink”, … or are we going to tell Him, “when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? “ God bless us all!
Note: This article was earlier published in The Filipino Catholic.