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Value choices determine whether there is enough food for all

20. November 2008

    Whilst the financial crisis is now making headlines in the West, in developing countries the food crises continues unaltered. Almost a billion people suffer from hunger or undernourishment. The world food situation, the rules of trade and the values that underlie them were the subject of a seminar organised by FELM in October in Helsinki.

    Voice of the church needed

    The rise of food prices is generally attributed to various factors as climate change, the rise in energy prices, and the use of agricultural land for the production of biofuels. The speakers of the seminar were however all of the same opinion that the question of values is at the heart of the issue.

    On the basis of what kind of values should trade deals be made? Should all be driven by economic competition?

    “I have been thinking about the 7th command : do not steal. We must not steal from our weaker trade partners. We must also not steal resources from the future generations to come,” said Under Secretary of State Pekka Huhtaniemi.

    According to him the church has a lot to contribute to the public discussion and decision making. “If all would be respecting the teachings of the church concerning the responsibility we have towards each other, problems could be solved.”

    In defense of the poor in Africa

    Also other speakers brought viewpoints from the Bible to the forefront during the seminar.

    “Jesus summoned his disciples to share two fish and five bread amongst the crowd. In a similar manner we are meant to share bread among the poor,” said South African pastor and economic advisor Malcolm Damon. “But we must also be active and pressure political decision makers so that the world would become a more just place.”

    According to Damon who is director of the Economic Justice Network of Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa the rules of world trade are unfair towards developing countries. They privilege the United States and the European Union, and the EU is pressuring poor countries to accept the unfair trade deals.”

    A common future

    Climate change and all its consequences have made people understand, that the problems of today are not just problems of distant countries, but in fact shared globally. Food security is not to be taken for granted in rich countries.

    Fair Trade association director Tuulia Syvänen reminded of the responsibility towards each other. “Governments have a responsibility for the decisions made, but we all have responsibilities towards each other. We can make choices, which further the interests of a small farmers family or any other small entrepreneur living in the poorest conditions,” said Syvänen

    Bishop Juha Pihkala said that there is too little altruism. “We should all commit to our common destiny. We can no longer think that we are safe, whilst others are suffering. There rests a heavy ethical responsibility on the shoulders of us rich.”

    From The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission
     Malcolm Damon (3.1 M)

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance is a broad international network of churches and Christian organizations cooperating in advocacy on food and HIV and AIDS. The Alliance is based in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information, see http://www.e-alliance.ch/

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