From .......... National Catholic Reporter

November 10, 1995


In our divided human family no division is more fundamental than that between those who eat and those who don't. Yet few voices are raised these days for the hungry and starving. Instead, the prevailing political creed is cutting social spending as a cowed, confused nation watches Newt Gingrich's triumphal parade march to a so-called revolution where only the strongest survive.

There is a monumental injustice in the way the cuts are occurring. That small sector of the population that already has wealth and influence is having its way. It is following a familiar human pattern and grabbing what it can in a nation that suspects there is less left to grab every day. That leaves the poor and powerless further marginalized.

In this climate, very few are willing to speak out on behalf of the hungry. The drumbeat seems to say that helping the poor only serves to corrupt them, that feeding the hungry is bad for them. At a time when all but the very rich must tighten their belts to survive, it's easy to let the drumbeat drown out the cry for food or shelter or dignity or a decent job.

With so little attention devoted to so much hunger in Washington, capital of the wealthiest country that ever existed, it is imperative that voices of conscience, however small, be raised against this enormous scandal. If God is the loving-parent God in whom most of the population claims to believe, then our national harshness must cry to heaven for redress.

Consider again these mind numbing facts.

- Worldwide, 1.3 billion people live in absolute poverty, while the top fifth of the people on the global economic ladder enjoy 60 times the goods and services of the bottom fifth.

- An estimated 1 billion people one in five persons do not eat enough to sustain themselves. That is, they are slowly starving to death. Yet the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone.

- 13 million to 18 million people, mostly children, die from hunger and hunger-related causes each year. That's 35,000 people a day, more than 1,000 children an hour.

- One-third of the grain grown in the world and one-half of the fish caught are fed to animals in wealthy countries.

- Developing nations now owe the world's wealthiest countries $1.3 trillion. The deaths of an estimated half million children annually can be traced to policies related to the international debt crisis.

- The majority of people in the poor nations of Latin America, Africa and Asia are crowded onto the poorest and most ecologically fragile land while the best land is used for cash crops.

- World population, now at 5.7 billion and increasing by 90 million people each year, is likely to exceed 10 billion by the middle of the 21st century. Virtually all the additional people will be in poorer countries.

- Global military expenditures are estimated at $767 billion for 1994

more than the total income of the poorest 46 percent of the world's population. UNICEF, meanwhile, estimates that within a decade it could be possible to bring an end to child malnutrition, preventable disease and widespread illiteracy, if only the will were there. The estimated cost: $25 billion per year.

The conscience that quietly stirs individual souls must find its voice. It must become an outcry and then a movement and, yes, a revolution. The newly awakened collective conscience must then flex its political will, must send a message to our leaders that greed is not the national ethos, that justice is an individual and national virtue. And our national leaders will learn that self-interest is a first-cousin of charity; that material wealth is truly insecure when stored in the treacherous warehouse of injustice.