NOTE: This guest post was written by Vera Dimoplon. Vera is a graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Her specializations are in International Organizations, Global Negotiations and Conflict Management. Vera’s interests are the operation of international institutions in multilateral community and negotiations among multinational actors.
Sharing bread is a wide-spread tradition across many cultures. It’s a custom expressing friendship and hospitality. As a part of the 71st UN General Assembly work on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a few meetings were held last week to discuss what can be done to achieve Zero Hunger around the World.
On 21 September 2016, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) along with Caritas Internationalis, Islamic Relief and the Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD) held a meeting that brought partners from inter-faith community to collaborate on achieving Zero Hunger around the World. The Church Center of the United Nations in New York City welcomed leaders from UN agencies, NGOs, religious communities and other stakeholders.
The speakers included the following: Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP); Jose Graziano da Silva, Director General, UN Food and Agriculture Organization; Ingrid- Gabriela Hoven Director- General of Global Issues, Sector Policies and Programmes, German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development; H.E. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, Vatican; Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief USA; Ramaswamy Mohan, representative of the Hindu Temple Society of North America; Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Director of Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary; Naomi Less, Associate Director of Lab/ Shul; Ven. Chung Ohun Lee, Representative of Won Buddhism International to the UN and Interfaith Cooperation and Co- President of Religions for Peace; Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO of World Vision International; and Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Caritas Internationalis, NY.
Great thoughts and ideas were shared at the meeting:
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP) started with remarks that “hunger has no religion, hunger has no culture, hunger has no nationality.” She urged the faith-based organizations and religious communities to “change the opportunities for those who are in need.” She concluded with a Catholic prayer that called for companionship among researchers, farmers and those who are in charge, for the partnership between the rich and the poor, and the hope for the fields all over the world to flourish and provide for those in need.
Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven Director-General of Global Issues, Sector Policies and Programmes, German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development continued by advising that “by joining forces we can make a difference.” The German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development set Sustainable Development Goals as a high priority. It invests 1.5 billion euros annually in food security and fighting hunger.
H.E. Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, Vatican pointed out that he is convinced that “the issues of food security and Zero Hunger must be the top priority for the International and Political actions.” He underlined that the World community should share a commitment for common good at the ethical, juridical and economic levels. He asked the World community to help built equality and solidarity.
Anwar Khan, CEO of Islamic Relief USA spoke about the necessity of working together and creating partnerships. He thanked German, Swedish, British and U.S. Governments, as well as numerous religious organizations throughout the World for working with the Islamic Relief Fund in helping them reach the Eastern regions and provide help. He continued: “We have enough people who want to build walls. We need more people who can build bridges.” He urged the World community as a “son of refugees” to “remember that refugees are human beings.” https://twitter.com/SHU_UN_Studies/status/778734827117748224
Ramaswamy Mohan, representative of the Hindu Temple Society of North America reminded the audience about the concept of Karma. He said that Karma means doing the right thing during good and bad times. He pointed out that similarly, it’s considered wrong when someone cooks a loaf of bread and eats it without sharing it with others. He mentioned that according to the Scripture, “sharing of food is not an option, it’s an obligation.” Ramaswamy Mohan spoke about the existing programs that the Hindu Temple Society of North America already does in collaboration with various religious organization in terms of proving food for those who are in need and fighting hunger. He shared that the community of Hindu Temple Society deliberately makes extra food and delivers it to those who are in need through various programs and events. He spoke of innovative use of social media in helping the community realize the need and the ways to get engaged in fighting hunger. https://twitter.com/SHU_UN_Studies/status/778736767285366784
Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Director of Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue, Jewish Theological Seminary spoke about existing partnership that the Jewish Theological Center has with Muslims from the 96th Street Masque and the Presbyterian Church on 114th Street and the program they have to feed the hungry of the New York City. Likewise, he mentioned the partnership that the Jewish community maintains throughout the World with leaders from other religions in attempt to achieve Zero Hunger.
Ven. Chung Ohun Lee, Representative of Won Buddhism International to the UN and Interfaith Cooperation and Co- President of Religions for Peace talked about the need for stronger moral leadership in order to strengthen the human right for food and food security. She spoke of the way that the Buddhists believe that everyone and everything is interconnected and interdependent. She mentioned that offering food is a reminder of letting go of your selfishness; giving and receiving food creates a connection at a spiritual level. Ven. Chung Ohun reminded the participants that offering a meal to someone shows solidarity, compassion and kindness. She called for public awareness and mobilization of public community in achieving Zero Hunger. https://twitter.com/SHU_UN_Studies/status/778739721044234240
Kevin Jenkins, President and CEO of World Vision International, and Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Caritas Internationalis, NY reflected on relationship between food and peace. He started with the proverb: If your enemy is hungry, feed him. Then, he spoke of his experience in Rwanda where the local population is still recovering from genocide of 1994. Kevin Jenkins shared about one of the projects, local population and his organization are working on together. It’s called Tree of Peace. It’s designed to help people who lost their loves ones through genocide work on forgiveness towards those who caused that loss. He emphasized that this project helps people turn forgiveness into an event, into a moment. Then, this moment is turned into a relationship. He explained that the victim, who is trying to forgive meets with a perpetrator who was in prison for years serving his term for genocide. They ask each other for forgiveness and forgive each other. Then they plant a tree in each other’s backyard. To water and nurture their trees, they visit them every day. Through the time, they learn about each other and form a relationship. When the harvest comes, they share the fruits of the tree together. Mr. Jenkins said: “There’s no peace without food security. And there’s no food security without peace.” https://twitter.com/SHU_UN_Studies/status/778742236913602561
The program was completed with music and songs, as well as the Voices from the Field: performance that included real- life stories in form of narratives from refugees and people who suffer from hunger on daily basis. Those testimonies shared by people from Ecuador, Korea, South Sudan, and Syria and read by Trace DePass and Talia Wray, touched the hearts of those present at the meeting.
You can find more information about this meeting at https://twitter.com/SHU_UN_Studies