Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

373 posts categorized "Global Hunger"

Africa Leaders Summit Coming to Washington, D.C. Aug 4-6

4996040492_41da36588f_b
A woman in Lusaka, Zambia, carries water from the well to her house. (Margaret W. Nea)

The White House will host a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next week in Washington, D.C.  Bread for the World will urge the administration, Congress, and Africa's leaders to redouble their efforts to end hunger in Africa and around the world, encouraging support of three pieces of legislation that would make food aid more effective, enable farmers to grow more food, and open more trade options. 

“Progress in Africa shows that we can end extreme hunger and poverty worldwide in our time,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “We celebrate the impressive progress by African nations but much more needs to be done to end hunger in Africa and worldwide."

 In a statement to the press, “Bread for the World Urges Redoubling of Efforts to End Hunger in Africa” released today, Beckmann outlined three key pieces of legislation for ending hunger in Africa:

S.2421, or the Corker-Coons bill, recently introduced in the Senate. It will be the first time that the U.S. food aid program will be extensively reformed and will make the program more effective.

The Feed the Future initiative.This program launched in 2010 and is already enabling smaller farmers in Africa to grow more food. Bread for the World urges Congress to pass legislation authorizing this successful program into law.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Passed in 2000, this act needs to be reauthorized next year. The next phase of AGOA should aim to increase, as it has, trade opportunities for African farmers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.

To participate in the events virtually, follow @bread4theworld on our Twitter feed and the event hashtags: #USAfricaSummit and #TheAfricaWeWant. Using social media, you can join the conversation and remind decision-makers that ending hunger in Africa and around the globe matters to people of faith.

For additional background from Bread for the World Institute, read:  "The Push Up Decade: CADDP" and "A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

To learn more, watch the video from Voice of America below. VOA’s Vincent Makori talks to Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Assistance Policy Analyst at Bread for the World, about the expectations of the U.S.-Africa Summit, feeding the future, and reaching the goal of ending hunger by 2030.

Smallholder Farmers Key to Ending Hunger—But They Need Support to Do It

6857108316_affc8c3243_k
Martha Togdbba of Kpaytno, Liberia, grows vegetables, including tomatoes and chili peppers. She irrigates her small farm with water from a nearby stream that she walks back and forth to with a watering can. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Robin Stephenson

In a recent interview with Devex, Roger Thurow says a key ingredient to global food security is the smallholder farmer. “Smallholder farmers haven’t been at the center of agriculture development efforts.” We have programs today that can change that.

Thurow is a senior fellow on global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change.

Thurow says reversing the pattern of neglect is a major challenge of our time if we want to face a food-secure future. “These smallholder farmers who have been so badly ignored and neglected by a kind of collective us… [they] are now really indispensible to our future of feeding the planet.” Deficiencies in global agriculture become even more urgent when factoring in climate change and population growth, which will put increasing pressure on global food resources in the future.

Evidence suggests that agriculture-led growth is a key to ending hunger and poverty. Faustine Wabwire writes that the missing link is women. In A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, Wabwire, senior foreign assistance policy analyst at Bread for the World Institute, takes a closer look at the composition of smallholder farmers, the majority of which are women. In sub-Sahara Africa, women produce up to 70 percent of the food for their households and markets.  She writes, “An estimated 12 percent to 17 percent reduction in global malnutrition could come from enabling female farmers to match the yields of male farmers by allowing them equal access to resources.”

USAID has been leading the charge with a new kind of development that addresses smallholder agriculture and women as change agents. Programs like Feed the Future are already charting a course toward self-sufficiency. Investing in and reforming U.S. food aid to allow flexibility, improve nutrition, and build long-term resilience is also critical to a future free from hunger. 

Congress must make these investments a priority in their 2015 spending bills if we are to end global hunger.  However, appropriators in the Senate have approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future in the State-Foreign Operations bill. Investments in food aid reform, although minimal, have been proposed for House and Senate Agricultural appropriation bills and pushed through with the help of persistent urging on the part of anti-hunger advocates. We will continue to support amendments that allow U.S. food aid to reach more people.

The nightly news shows us we face daunting problems: children fleeing poverty and violence in Central America, Somalia on the brink of famine, the incomprehensible human suffering of refugees in South Sudan – the list goes on. At the root of each of these crises is hunger and poverty.  Solutions that address root causes are solutions that last. Looking at smallholder farmers as the engine for poverty reduction can help end what Thurow calls a medieval affliction of our time – child malnutrition.  He asks, “Why in the fourteenth year of the 21st century are we still afflicted by all these problems?”  Why indeed.

Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.

African Faith Leaders Discuss Next Steps for the Millennium Development Goals

6521597667_9dcf6bdbd4_b
Jane Sebbi, left, is a farmer with 12 acres of land in Kamuli, Uganda and a mother of seven children. In this photo she works in her field with her sister-in-law. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Kimberly Burge

In Africa, faith leaders are claiming a greater role in advocacy for people who are poor, based in the belief that “if one [part] body of the whole suffers, the whole body is unwell.” Partnerships are vital as we build on progress already made against global poverty and hunger. It’s also crucial that we hear from and include the voices of people in developing countries. 

Bread for the World President David Beckmann traveled to Uganda at the beginning of July to attend the African Faith Leaders’ Summit in Kampala. This unprecedented interfaith gathering brought together Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, and Hindu leaders from across the continent. Beckmann was one of only three faith representatives from outside Africa invited to attend the summit. He was invited to demonstrate to the African faith community that they have allies in the United States who stand in solidarity with them on development issues.

The group came together to discuss a development agenda that will follow up the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Endorsed by 189 countries in 2000 the MDGs are an unprecedented global effort to achieve development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets—including cutting in half the proportion of people living in poverty. Every major region of the world made progress. The MDGs carry through December 2015. Bread for the World is an active participant in efforts to craft a post-2015 successor to the MDGs. The chair of the summit planning committee and secretary-general of the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC), Rev. Nicta Lubaale, spoke at Bread’s National Gathering in June.

The African faith leaders developed and adopted a statement on the post-2015 goals. As they noted in a position paper that came out of the summit: “We recognize that the current global development framework, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), greatly improved coordination of global development priorities and have helped to shape thinking and action on the priorities for the well-being for a majority of developing countries. We also recognize that the MDGs were created through a top-down, closed door process with the consequence that they failed to engage and respond to the structural realities of people living in poverty. We are gratified that the process to define the post-2015 framework has been more participatory, inclusive, and attentive to the voices of those who live in poverty and are marginalized. This process is very important to us as it calls to conscience solidarity amongst our one human family, and challenges a growing peril in the globalization of indifference.”

Their concerns focused specifically on poverty and hunger; agriculture and nutrition; increased attention to women, youth, and people with disabilities; and governance issues and the need to fight corruption. The conference also stressed interfaith harmony at a time when violence in the name of Islam and Christian-Muslim conflict present major problems in several African countries.

Two heads of state addressed the summit: President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. The faith leaders were encouraged to become advocates on poverty and human need issues with their own governments. Conference organizers hope that this new network will encourage stronger faith-based advocacy on social justice issues over the years to come.

“It’s very gratifying to see the commitment and progress that OAIC and other faith partners are making,” Beckmann said. “For a long time in Africa, the church and faith community have focused mainly on charity. This unprecedented conference is a step toward increased efforts to shape policies that are important to poor and marginalized people.”

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

This is a Humanitarian Crisis

12090859716_8bb9d5217e_b

Poverty and violence are push factors that have caused a surge in child migration to the U.S. from countries like Guatemala, which has the highest child malnutrition rate in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. food aid assistance help Catarina Pascual Jiménez find a path out of hunger.  (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).

UPDATE: August 8, 2014

Before leaving for the August recess, House lawmakers passed a $694 million border bill, but failed to provide new funding to address the hunger, poverty, and violence causing the surge in unaccompanied children crossing into the U.S. This debate is not over. Congress will revisit this issue when they return in September. In the meantime, your senators and representatives will be home throughout August. Take advantage of Bread's August recess resources, and raise this issue in town hall meetings, at the local district office, and other events.

By Eric Mitchell

Emilio is a 16-year-old boy from Honduras.

A fifth grade dropout, Emilio has no job and often goes hungry. "When we were hungry, we endured it ... Some days, you would eat. Other days, you wouldn't," he says.

A smuggler promised to help Emilio get into the United States. However, during the journey, he and two companions were sold to a man who locked them inside a house in Guatemala, threatening to kill them unless their families each paid $2,000. The journey is dangerous, and some children die on the way, but conditions in his home country are so desperate that Emilio says he will try again.

Emilio is one of tens of thousands of children from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador attempting to flee violence and extreme poverty. We as people of faith must act to address the root causes of this humanitarian crisis.

There are two things you can do right now to help.

  1. Pray. Pray for these children, their parents, and the often poor and violence-stricken communities they have left behind. And pray for the children who still remain in Central America, many of whom, like Emilio, go without enough food for days on end. You can use these prayers or your own.
  2. Call (800-826-3688) or email your U.S. representative and your U.S. senators! Simply say: I urge you to respond to the surge of unaccompanied children crossing the border. Please pass legislation that addresses the conditions of poverty, hunger, and violence in Central America that are forcing them to leave.

The Bible tells us that Jesus has a special concern for children who belong to the kingdom of God (Mark 10:14). Christians must speak up for children like Emilio.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children are crossing the border, fleeing unspeakable conditions in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Since October, over 52,000 unaccompanied children have crossed our borders. By year’s end, we are expecting that number to grow to between 70,000 and 90,000.

Emilio’s story isn’t unique, considering what he is fleeing. More than half of the citizens of Honduras live on less than $4 a day, and violence is rampant.

While the debate raging in Washington focuses on detention centers and how fast the government can send these children back, few members of Congress are asking: What are we sending these children back to? Solutions to this crisis must look beyond the border.

If we support successful development programs in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, we can help ensure children like Emilio will not have to risk their lives to escape poverty and hunger.

The situation is urgent. Please call (800-826-3688) or email now.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Congress Recommends Cuts to Poverty-Focused Development Assistance Funding

FY15 Funding Recommendations No L.HHS

Recently, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their annual funding legislation for the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other related agencies, known as the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill.  

Each year, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees meet to determine funding levels for vital programs that affect hungry people here in the United States and abroad. On the international front, Bread for the World specifically follows the parts of the budget known as poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) accounts, which includes funding for various programs related to food and nutrition security, global health, basic education, water and sanitation, maternal and child care, refugee assistance, and emergency humanitarian response, to name just a few. 

While the House and Senate decided to recommend the same overall funding level for PFDA programs ($21.9 billion), this funding is slightly lower than current levels ($22.3 billion). Both the House and Senate made recommendations to cut global health programs, which includes funding for maternal and child health, nutrition, family planning, vaccines for malaria, tuberculosis, and tropical diseases, and HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention.

The Senate specifically approved a $100 million cut to Feed the Future. In the House, a 21 percent cut to International Organizations and Programs was also made. Funding in this account is used to support U.S contributions to international organizations like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Development Program.

Thanks in large part to Bread for the World members and their advocacy efforts, we have helped prevent even more severe cuts from being recommended, but we continue to call on Congress to provide additional funding for PFDA programs before finalizing funding levels for the next fiscal year.

Additional resources will help us support humanitarian aid efforts in places in conflict like Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Looking beyond emergency aid, we hope to not backtrack on the many investments we have made to long-term development programs over the years, such as with child survival.

These programs save lives. Due in part to American commitments, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past 12 years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.

As these children grow into adults, their survival has the potential to translate into even greater stories of improved economic and social well-being, with benefits felt far beyond their households and country borders—even back on American shores. Congress must continue its vital role in ensuring this becomes a reality by increasing PFDA funding levels in the upcoming fiscal year.  

 

Wheat Scientist Awarded World Food Prize

RajaramBorlaugField_A32366CE7DB8E
Dr. Rajaram and Dr. Borlaug work in wheat fields in Mexico. (Photo courtesy of CIMMYT)


Bread for the World is joining the anti-hunger movement in congratulating wheat breeder Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram as this year’s World Food Prize laureate.
 
Rajaram was named the 2014 laureate this morning at a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C., where Secretary of State John Kerry gave keynote remarks.
 
The award is known as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.” It’s given annually to a person who has worked to improve the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.
 
“When you do the math, when our planet needs to support two billion more people in the next three decades, it’s not hard to figure out: This is the time for a second green revolution,” Kerry said. “That’s why Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram is being honored with the World Food Prize. We are grateful for the hundreds of new species of wheat Dr. Rajaram developed, which deliver 200 million more tons of grain to global markets each year and feed millions across the world.”
 
Born in India and a citizen of Mexico, Rajaram is being honored for his work in creating more than 480 varieties of bread wheat that are grown in 51 countries. Both small and large-scale farmers around the world have benefitted from Rajaram’s work with high-yielding wheat. Rajaram conducted the majority of his research in Mexico at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). His work there led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production – by more than 200 million tons during the 25-year-period known as the “golden years of wheat” – building upon the successes of the Green Revolution.
 
Rajaram is a protégé of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who in 1987 created the prize that Rajaram received today. Borlaug, who would have turned 100 years old this year, was a board member of Bread for the World.
 
Bread for the World’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, received the World Food Prize in 2010.

World Cup 2014: Players Who Are Fighting Poverty

World Cup Banner

By Bianca Brown

Saturday, June 14: Colombia v. Greece; Uruguay v. Costa Rica; Cote d'Ivoire v. Japan

The upcoming World Cup has many people anticipating a series of well-played matches. But soccer fans may not know that many of their favorite players are just as dedicated to helping their communities as they are dedicated to helping their teams win. Salomon Kalou (Cote d’Ivorie), Radamel Falcao (Colombia), and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) are all shining examples of how talented athletes are using soccer as a way of giving back to help their countries, and helping to end hunger and poverty.  

These players are involved in addressing hunger and poverty for a reason: each of their countries has a high number of residents living below the poverty line. In Cote d’Ivorie, the rate is 42.7 percent; in Colombia, 32.7 percent; and in Costa Rica, 20.7 percent, according to recent data.

Salomon_kalou_2007Many of the citizens in these countries rely on their governments’ Poverty Reduction and National Development strategies to alleviate poverty and hunger. However, in recent years, due to economic imbalances, social inequality, and lack of employment opportunities, government applications of these plans have left the growth of these countries stagnant. With local support, Kalou, Falcao, Navas, and other athletes are using their abilities, faith, and high profiles to inspire advocacy and further the movement to end hunger.

During recent interview sessions, the players gave their perspectives on what being part of this movement means to them. Kalou, along with his older brother and fellow soccer player Bonaventure Kalou, created the Kalou Foundation, which provides social services and recreation facilities for vulnerable populations. Falcao is an avid supporter of progressive steps to help his country to rise out of poverty; he has said that with continual government reinforcement of poverty as a priority, citizens suffering from extreme poverty and hunger can be liberated. Navas has spoken of looking forward to the chance to continue working to end hunger in Costa Rica.

Extreme poverty and the need to make ending hunger a priority drives Kalou, Falcao, Navas, and other athletes to not only be outstanding role models at the World Cup, but to be advocates and philanthropists in the fight against hunger. These stars stand out for their work both on and off the field. 

Bianca Brown is an intern in Bread for the World's communications department and a senior at Georgia's Wesleyan College.

Photo: Salomon Kolou, playing during in a 2007 match. (Flickr user Jean-Marc Liotier)

Bread Helps Win Important Nutrition Victories

Lead story home
Dabora Nyibol prepares sorghum for her family at her home in South Sudan. A new nutrition strategy for the U.S. Agency for International Development will help ensure that people like Nyibol in poor countries will receive better nutrition from the assistance they receive from U.S. food-aid programs. (Stephen H. Padre)

May was a good month for nutrition.

At the Chicago Council Global Food Security 2014 event May 22 in Washington, D.C., National Security Advisor Susan Rice delivered on a promise by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the agency's first-ever global nutrition strategy. The release of the strategy came just one year after being announced at an event cohosted by Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide.

Bread has been an active participant in the development of the strategy, along with other institutions that share a concern over nutrition, including advocacy and operational partners of USAID.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of Bread's non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID strategy comes after Bread’s successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (USAID administrator Raj Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs. Also, the 2014 farm bill authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food-aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

"The fact that USAID has developed an agency-wide nutrition strategy is another sign of U.S. leadership in efforts to scale up maternal and child nutrition globally," said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “It reflects a strong commitment to augment the effectiveness of its programs, especially those in the Feed the Future Initiative, and to hold itself accountable to improving nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity between pregnancy and age 2."

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food-security initiative that connects federal government agencies and departments that have hunger-related programs and the 19 partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that are in the initiative.

According to the strategy, undernutrition contributed to 3.1 million (45 percent of all) preventable child deaths in 2011. That same year, stunting impacted more than 165 million people worldwide—including 52 million children under five. The USAID nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role that nutrition plays in human development and the devastating personal, social, and economic impacts of chronic malnutrition on an individual, a community, and a country.

The strategy will support commitments the United States made as part of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact agreed at last year’s Nutrition for Growth Summit, including reaching 500 million pregnant women and children under two by 2020; averting 20 million additional cases of stunting by 2020 (a World Health Assembly milestone); and preventing 1.7 million deaths by 2020 through efforts to reduce stunting, increase breastfeeding, improve zinc supplementation, and boost coverage of treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

"In the year since announcing the strategy, USAID has engaged a broad set of stakeholders, resulting in a stronger finished product and more effective, efficient implementation," added Lateef. "This has also laid the groundwork for the forthcoming 'whole-of-government' plan from the Obama administration. We look forward to continued cross-agency coordination to help improve nutritional outcomes for women and children around the world."

[This article originally appeared in the June edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

David Beckmann: "Now is the time to invest more in programs like Feed the Future"


Chili is an all-year crop that provides an alternative and sustainable source of income to Kenyan farmers due to its resiliency to drought. To expand the productivity of chili farmers in Siaya County, a USAID project in Kenya is engaging in new partnerships with farmer/producer organizations to enhance access to credit that would enable farmers to obtain high-quality farm inputs and adopt modern farming methods. (Feed the Future/Antony Okonji)

Feed the Future, the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) initiative to address global hunger and poverty, is now four years old. It is, by all accounts, a success: its programs have helped 7 million smallholder farmers and saved 12.5 million children from hunger and poverty, according to its recently released progress report. Yesterday, at the Feed the Future forum— a Washington, D.C., gathering of global leaders from the public and private sectors —Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann lauded the initiative and U.S. leadership in work to end hunger. “With 842 million people around the world still going hungry every day, now is the time to invest more in programs like Feed the Future," he said, adding that it is a "model of effectiveness."

But Beckmann also warned that Congress is currently poised to undo progress that has been made in addressing worldwide hunger and poverty.

A little-known provision slipped into a recent House bill increases something called "cargo preference," which effectively raises the transportation costs for food aid. This move benefits a few foreign-owned shipping companies, but takes away $75 million per year from U.S. international food-aid programs. This would limit the food aid our nation can provide in times of crisis.

“Now is not the time to reverse reforms to U.S. food-aid programs,” Beckmann said.

“We won some reform in this year’s farm bill, but in other legislation, the subsidized shippers managed to increase their subsidies at the expense of 1.4 million fewer people receiving food aid every year,” Beckmann continued. “Recently, the shipping lobby managed to convince the House of Representatives to increase their subsidy by directly taking away food aid from another 2 million hungry people. It is unconscionable to steal food from 3.4 million people hungry just to give more subsidies to three of the world’s largest shipping companies.”

While U.S. food aid does a lot of good in the world, requiring that nearly all the food commodities come from this country and be shipped by a few U.S.-flagged ships is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, but puts the profits of shipping conglomerates before the needs of millions of people suffering from hunger and living in dire poverty.

Read Bread for the World's press release on the Feed the Future forum for more on Beckmann's remarks, and visit blog.bread.org/food-aid/ for updates on food-aid reform and cargo preference.

Pope Francis and Obama: When Faith and Government Meet

Pope_francis_president_obama
Pope Francis meets President Barack Obama at the Vatican on Thursday, March 27. (Getty)

By Billy Kangas

For President Obama, leader of the one of the wealthiest nations in the world, and Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church, to come together to discuss the need to address poverty and income inequality is historic. But what exactly does last Thursday’s meeting at the Vatican mean for hungry and poor people? Will it help shift Obama’s narrative on income equality from a focus on the struggling middle class to one on the hungry and impoverished in the United States and around the world? Does the fact that the two men were able to set aside any differences in opinion and find common ground in a desire to help the poor hint at a larger sea change?

The meeting raises many questions, but it also underscores the pope’s enormous potential to impact global politics, global leadership, and global priorities—including hunger and poverty. Exactly what does the so-called "Francis factor" contribute? Here are some observations to put Francis in perspective, and give some context to the life and ministry of this cleric, who is changing the world through small acts done with great love.

He's a leader from the developing world

This point is so key to understanding Francis. His voice has continually reminded me to look beyond my own cultural concerns and obsessions to see who the truly marginalized in this world are. As much as disparity and inequality remain significant and heart-wrenching issues in the United States, the inequality that ravages so many U.S. communities is often more acutely felt in the communities of the developing world. It is from these places that Francis emerged; it is in these places that he has spent his life of ministry. He reminds us to take our gaze away from our navels and to look into the pleading eyes of those who suffer under our indifference. 

He brings a different narrative 

Our political system often only gives us two stories to choose from: the narrative from the left, and the narrative from the right. The stories from these two sides can become all-consuming, blotting out all else and creating an environment in which one is judged solely on where they fall on the continuum of conservative to liberal. Francis emerges with a different kind of story—it is not one driven by politics, wealth, or power, but humility, grace, joy, and sacrifice. It cuts us to the heart, and brings a challenge. His message is simple: God's glory; neighbor's good. There is little room for self-aggrandizement in that equation, and I have been convicted time and time again of my own sin and of my need for the transforming Grace of God in my life.

He has a different kind of power

Francis wields a significant amount of power, but it is not the kind of power that we have grown accustomed to in our contemporary world. He does not have the power of the nation-state, he does not have the power of a global corporation, he does not even have the power of a radical revolutionary. His power lies in his ability to remind millions that their allegiance is to the God who demonstrates love in Christ laying down his life. Francis has been a great communicator of that message. He has been an example of what Christ looks like, and that is a power we have rarely had to contend with in this modern age.

He is bringing to bear a tradition

Another reason the “Francis factor” must be taken seriously is that he is more than just a prophet, he is a pope. As a pope, he brings with him a tradition that is deep and rich and beautiful. He does not bring ideas that are his alone, which will flash in the pan of world history and be forgotten, but represents a movement grounded in 2000 years of theology, philosophy, and social teaching, from which countless others have given their lives to demonstrate the radical love of God in Christ. Francis will not be pope forever, but we can be sure he will not be the last to bear this radical call. The message Francis preaches is not his own, and it will continue long after he has gone. It is the message that continues to sustain us.

It remains to be seen exactly how the “Francis factor” might influence the agenda of Obama—and vice versa. But hopefully, at the very least, last week’s meeting signaled to the world the importance of coming together to address issues of hunger and poverty in our world. 

*

Living out the mandate to work for God’s glory and neighbor’s good includes ensuring that all are fed. Bread for the World’s 2014 Offering of Letters, “Reforming U.S. Food Aid,” seeks smart forms to U.S. food aid programs—changes that would help feed millions more each year, at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Visit http://www.bread.org/ol to learn more.

Billy Kangas is Bread for the World's Catholic Relations fellow.

Stay Connected

Bread for the World