By Courtney Grogan
Pope Francis spoke out about inequality, the environment, sustainable development and the elimination of poverty during his visit to the United Nations’ agricultural development agency in Rome Thursday.
“Few have too much and too many have little, this is the logic of today. Many have no food and go adrift, while a few drown in the superfluous,” Pope Francis told staff members of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development, or IFAD.
“This perverse current of inequality is disastrous for the future of humanity,” he said.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development is specialized agency of the United Nations based in Rome and dedicated to improving rural food security and fighting poverty through grants and low-interest loans to rural farmers and indigenous peoples around the world.
“The poorest of the earth” are people who live mostly “in rural areas, in regions far from big cities, often in difficult and painful conditions,” Pope Francis said.
“They live in precarious situations: the air is stale, the natural resources are depleted, the rivers polluted, the soils acidified; they do not have enough water for themselves or their crops; their sanitary infrastructures are very deficient, their houses scarce and defective,” he said.
Francis added, “the exodus from the countryside to the city is a global trend that we can not ignore in our considerations.”
Three quarters of the poorest people in the world live in rural areas, according to IFAD, which has a particular focus on supporting indigenous communities in their traditional food systems and livelihoods.
After his formal UN address, the pope met with delegates from 31 different indigenous peoples from America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific region.
“The presence of all of you here shows that environmental issues are extremely important and invites us to once again look at our planet, hurt in many regions by human greed, by warlike conflicts that engender a wealth of evils and misfortunes, as well as for the natural catastrophes that leave in their wake poverty and devastation,” the pope said in Spanish.
“Native peoples … become for everyone a wake-up call that emphasizes that man is not the owner of nature, but only the manager, the one that has as vocation to watch over it with care, so that its biodiversity is not lost, and the water can remain healthy and crystal clear, the air pure, the forests leafy, and the soil fertile,” he continued.
“The earth suffers and the native peoples know of the dialogue with the earth, they know what it is to listen to the earth, to see the earth, to touch the earth. They know the art of living well in harmony with the earth. And we have to learn that,” he continued.
Pope Francis warned the UN agency of the danger posed by a humanitarian aid culture that “can end up generating dependencies” and hinder development.
Instead, he asserted, “The aim is always to affirm the centrality of the human person, remembering that the new processes that are being developed cannot always be incorporated into schemes established from the outside, but must start from the same culture.”
Pope Francis also acknowledged the potential of technology and sustainable development to aid the poor in meeting their daily needs.
“It is necessary to bet on innovation, entrepreneurial capacity, the protagonism of local actors and the efficiency of productive processes to achieve rural transformation in order to eradicate malnutrition and to develop in a sustainable way the rural environment,” he said.
“Put technology really at the service of the poor,” Pope Francis said, and exhorted the IFAD staff to always utilize the creative power of love.