Archives June 2022

Food Insecurity in Asia and Global Catholic Citizenship

By Dr. Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

We have heard of food and energy crisis in many parts of the world including Asia since Russian invasion in Ukraine has begun in February, 2022. Statistically speaking, 36 countries imported more than 50% of their wheat from Russia or Ukraine in 2020. Compared to this, in March 2022, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s Food Price Index leapt to its highest level since its inception in 1990.

Although Asian countries improved their food supply by harvesting a lot of crops this year, hunger is rampant in some countries in Asia especially North Korea. Quite similar is four countries like Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia are facing food shortages, according to the FAO announced in May, 2022. The UN body predicted that North Korea’s food situation would continue to deteriorate. It added that North Korea’s rice and corn stockpiles are expected to run out within this month unless additional emergency food aid is provided.

What made its situation worse is the Covid19 which has just been outbroken and infected 4 million people there. In addition to North Korea, Cambodia and Laos are suffering from food shortages due to flooding, drought in Sri Lanka, and complicated problems resulting from the transition from centralized to free market system in Mongolia. In particular, in Laos, 420,000 people, a quarter of the total population, are in need of emergency aid.

What is the causes of hunger and food insecurity in many countries in the world and Asia? Generally it is due to economic instability such as conflict, poverty, hyperinflation and rising commodity prices, and environmental factors such as floods and droughts. This time is different simply because of the pandemic. Blockades and closures caused by the deadly virus have devastated people’s livelihoods and led to a sharp increase in poverty and inequality around the world.

Ilustration: Food Security

In many countries, restrictions and blockades for quarantine measures for more than two years have also meant suspension of food supplies, delays in overseas remittances, and suspension of school meals. The sharp rise in food prices is putting a huge strain on household finances, and poor families are being hit hard.

Conflict and all kinds of war are the biggest cause of hunger in the world, and 65% of people who actually face severe food insecurity are caused by conflict and civil war according to news reports. In third-world countries, poverty and prolonged conflict have destroyed their livelihoods, forced families to leave their homes, and countless children, including girls, are suffering from hunger most.

We can’t say more about the cause of hunger without saying about climate change. Hurricanes, cyclones, floods and droughts because of it affect harvests, leading to food insecurity. Climate change also increases the spread of crop pestssuch as locusts, damaging and destroying crops to harvest. Inflation and the economic crisis have affected food accessibility for many people. Even if food is available, it is too expensive to make it easy for many people to get it. Due to the influence of the pandemic, many people lost their livelihoods and their income decreased.

Who are the most vulnerable to this kind of hunger, food crisis or food insecurity? Women and girls account for 70 percent of the world’s hungered. And as families and communities struggle, girls are more likely to quit school than boys, and are more likely to be at risk of child, early marriage, gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and unwanted pregnancy. In addition, starvation is particularly dangerous for adolescent girls and pregnant or breastfeeding women, increasing the risk of miscarriage or death during childbirth.

This is a report from a NGO working for women and girl children. What has all the information got to do with Catholics like us? We as a Catholic are not to be confined in our country nor a continent but to be identified as a world Catholic citizen who concerns for the poor people in the world. When you put yourself as a global citizen and look at the poor suffering hunger, it will be only then that the problem of global poverty, food crisis, and hunger comes into the task of yours as a global Catholic with the full spirit of Catholic citizenship.

Indeed, the word “Catholic” or “Catholicity” means the universe or the pluriverse if you want from the beginning. Therefore, a Catholic is born to be a concerned neighbor who takes good care of the marginalized and abandoned in the world and the universe.

LAMIN held the Graduation Ceremony for its 2021-2022 Batch

The Lay Mission Institute-LAMIN held the Graduation Ceremony in Archbishop’s House, Yangon on 15 May 2022. There were totally 69 graduates from classes/Academic Year of 2021 and 2022. Students comprised of Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindu. A huge thank you to all who are walking our theological journey.

Lay Mission Institute-LAMIN held the Graduation Ceremony in Archbishop’s House, Yangon on 15 May 2022.

LAMIN also extends its gratitude to Cardinal Charles Bo, SDB, DD for continuous support and for delivering graduation inauguration speech. The 2022–2023 Academic Year will begin June 2022.

The Social Problem is Now Global and Interdependent

By Fr. Desmond De’Sousa CSsR

International Disproportions: A number of countries have a gross disproportion between land and population. In some countries arable land abounds, but there is a scarcity of population; whereas in other countries the position is reversed: the population is large, arable land scarce.

Surpluses and Scarcities: Again, some countries use primitive methods of agriculture, with the result that, for all their abundance of natural resources, they are not able to produce enough food to feed their population; whereas other countries, using modern methods of agriculture, produce a surplus of food which has an adverse effect on the economy.

Solidarity: It is therefore obvious that the solidarity of the human race and Christian brotherhood demand the elimination as far as possible of these discrepancies. With this object in view, people all over the world must co-operate actively with one another in all sorts of ways, so as to facilitate the movement of goods, capital and men from one country to another. We shall have more to say on this point later on.

Obligation of the Wealthy Nations: Probably the most difficult problem today concerns the relationship between political communities that are economically advanced and those in the process of development. Whereas the standard of living is high in the former, the latter are subject to extreme poverty. The solidarity which binds all men together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.

Social Issue in America – World Atlas

International Aid: Justice and humanity demand that those countries which produce consumer goods, especially farm products, in excess of their own needs should come to the assistance of those other countries where large sections of the population are suffering from want and hunger. It is nothing less than an outrage to justice and humanity to destroy or to squander goods that other people need for their very lives.

We are, of course, well aware that overproduction, especially in agriculture, can cause economic harm to a certain section of the population. But it does not follow that one is thereby exonerated from extending emergency aid to those who need it. On the contrary, everything must be done to minimize the ill effects of overproduction, and to spread the burden equitably over the entire population.

Scientific, Technical and Financial Co-operation: Of itself, however, emergency aid will not go far in relieving want and famine when these are caused—as they so often are—by the primitive state of a nation’s economy. The only permanent remedy for this is to make use of every possible means of providing these citizens with the scientific, technical and professional training they need, and to put at their disposal the necessary capital for speeding up their economic development with the help of modern methods.

We are aware how deeply the public conscience has been affected in recent years by the urgent need of supporting the economic development and social progress of those countries which are still struggling against poverty and economic disabilities.

International and regional organizations, national and private societies, all are working towards this goal, increasing day to day the measure of their own technical co-operation in all productive spheres.

Some Additional Counsels

In the first place, those nations which are still only at the beginning of their journey along the road to economic development would do well to consider carefully the experiences of the wealthier nations which have traversed this road before them.

The developing nations, obviously, have certain unmistakable characteristics of their own, resulting from the nature of the particular region and the natural dispositions of their citizens, with their time-honored traditions and customs.170. In helping these nations, therefore, the more advanced communities must recognize and respect this individuality. They must beware of making the assistance they give an excuse for forcing these people into their own national mold.

Offering Disinterested Aid: There is also a further temptation which the economically developed nations must resist: that of giving technical and financial aid with a view to gaining control over the political situation in the poorer countries, and furthering their own plans for world domination.

Social Problem

Let us be quite clear on this point. A nation that acted from these motives would in fact be introducing a new form of colonialism—cleverly disguised, no doubt, but actually reflecting that older, outdated type from which many nations have recently emerged. Such action would, moreover, have harmful impact on international relations, and constitute a menace to world peace.

Necessity, therefore, and justice demand that all such technical and financial aid be given without thought of domination, but rather for the purpose of helping the less developed nations to achieve their own economic and social growth. If this can be achieved, then a precious contribution will have been made to the formation of a world community, in which each individual nation, conscious of its rights and duties, can work on terms of equality with the rest for the attainment of universal prosperity.

Respecting the True Hierarchy of Values

Scientific and technical progress, economic development and the betterment of living conditions, are certainly valuable elements in a civilization. But they are essentially instrumental in character. They are not supreme values in themselves. There is a complete indifference to the true hierarchy of values shown by so many people in the economically developed countries.

Spiritual values are ignored, forgotten or denied, while the progress of science, technology and economics is pursued for its own sake, as though material well-being were the be-all and end-all of life. This attitude is contagious, especially when it infects the work that is being done for the less developed countries, which have often preserved in their ancient traditions an acute and vital awareness of the more important human values, on which the moral order rests.

To attempt to undermine this national integrity is clearly immoral. It must be respected and as far as possible clarified and developed, so that it may remain what it is: a foundation of true civilization.

Liberating Hagar: Liberating Migrant Domestic Workers

By Dr. Rose Wu

Let me now draw your attention to the slave woman Hagar in Genesis 16. In these texts, Hagar is introduced as the solution to a problem confronting a wealthy slave-holding family composed of Sarah and Abraham. Sarah was not able to bear children. She was distressed and often wondered how she could increase her standing in the community and keep the wealth she and her husband had acquired in their family; for in her world of the ancient Near East, a barren woman lost status.

Consequently, Sarah said to Abraham, “Listen now! Since Yahweh has kept me from having children, go to my slave-girl. Perhaps I shall get children through her.” And subsequently, Abraham had intercourse with Hagar, and she became pregnant. We have to understand that it was quite common in the Mediterranean region for wives to give their slaves as concubines to their husbands so that they might have descendants.

Under these circumstances, Hagar was a person facing triple oppressions. Firstly, Hagar, as a slave-girl, would have been under the complete control of her owner, Sarah. Secondly, Hagar, as a virgin woman, had no choice in matters of forced motherhood, but the law provided options for her wealthy slave-holders, like Sarah, who were barren.1) Thirdly, Hagar, as a foreign slave, was exposed to all forms of discrimination without any protection.

Credit Image: ILO

Here is a scenario familiar to many migrant domestic workers today―the brutal or cruel treatment they receive from their First World female employers, long working hours and unjust wages. Some of them are also sexually abused or raped by their owners and have borne children who their masters seldom claim.

Hagar, however, resisted the brutalities of slavery by running away. She no longer feels herself to be a slave without the right to make decisions. She was not interested in trying to win Sarah’s goodwill by suffering abuse in silence. Hagar preferred to die in the desert. Hagar becomes the first female in the Bible to liberate herself from oppressive power structures. Like Hagar, many migrant domestic workers have had to flee their employers due to the abuse they have endured at the hands of their employers. Instead of being passive, they too take the risk rather than endure more brutal treatment. What was God’s response to Hagar’s predicament? Were her pain and God’s response to it congruent with migrant domestic women’s predicament and their suffering?

Among many feminist theologians’ interpretations, I find Delores S. Williams’ Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk the most inspiring. Exploring the themes implicit in Hagar’s story―poverty and slavery, ethnicity and sexual exploitation, exile and encounter with God―Williams suggests that God’s response to Hagar’s story in the Hebrew testament is not liberation. Rather, God participates in the survival of Hagar and her child on two occasions. 2)

When she was a runaway slave, the angel of Yahweh met her in the wilderness and invited her to speak and told her to resubmit herself to her oppressor Sarah, that is, to return to bondage. Many feminists cannot help but question this response given to Hagar by the angel of Yahweh. Nevertheless, the angel of Yahweh makes a promise to Hagar similar to the promise Yahweh makes to Abraham in Genesis 15:2–6: “I shall make your descendants too numerous to be counted.”(Genesis 16:10) Here Hagar was given hope, not only for the survival of her generation, but also hope for the possibility of future freedom for her seed.

Then, when Hagar and her child were finally cast out of the home of their oppressors and were not given proper resources for survival, God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well so she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. (Genesis 21:18–19) God gave her new vision to see survival resources where she had seen none previously. Finally, in Hagar’s story, there is the suggestion that God will be instrumental in the development of Ishmael’s and Hagar’s quality of life. (Genesis 21:20).

Credit Image: BBC.com

Williams concluded that the female-centered tradition of African-American Biblical appropriation could be named the survival/quality-of-life tradition of African-American Biblical appropriation. 3) Today many migrant domestic workers, like Hagar, have to leave home and go to a foreign land to make a living for herself and her family. They suffer from poverty, economic exploitation, racism, sexual abuse, homelessness, isolation and also a radical encounter with God. They believe God is involved, not only in their struggle for survival, but that God also supports their struggle for a better quality of life.

Rereading the story of Hagar and reflecting upon and analyzing migrant domestic workers’ lives have taught me that Asian feminist scholarship in theology needs to do more than borrow the vocabulary of First World feminism to describe Third World women’s suffering and liberation. We must search deeply into the hidden and multiple layers of oppression of our sisters who are struggling to survive in this globalized and violent world.

We have been silent about race- and class-privileged women who have been oppressing the poor and outcast women. We have been silent about privileged, middle class men and women working together to maintain supremacy and privilege. When this is clearly seen and anticipated, perhaps First World feminists will become more conscious of the ways in which their lifestyle and work perpetuates the oppressive culture of neo-liberalism and economic globalization.

Though differences exist in cultural contexts, social locations and experiences, First World feminists and Third World feminists hold in common a belief that we must work together to overcome globalized violence in transnational labor. Women are not solely victims and objects of the development agenda, however, for it is argued that women’s unique perspectives on the global economy have enriched the groundwork for defining alternatives to economic globalization and have therefore much to contribute to the Church and the world’s vision of building just and sustainable communities.

Ref:

1) Gerhald von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1972), 186.

2) Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (New York: Orbis Books, 1996), 4.

3) Ibid., 6.

SRI LANKA: Island Nation Paradise Rapidly Growing Hungry

By R. Pieris, Colombo

At the beginning of 2022, Sri Lanka was like any other nation in the South Asia region: inflation rates were higher than experts would like them to be, but stable politically, socially and economically. Our paradise of an island had many issues over the years, but people loved living here, after all, it is our home. But since April, all of Sri Lanka’s past mistakes, the wrong decisions, the ill-timed decisions, corruption of leaders, impact post COVID hit in full force as our nation uses the last of its foreign reserves which doesn’t even cover the cost of essential goods.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst ever economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948, and except for maybe 2-3% of our population, everyone suffers the consequences of fuel shortages, gas shortages, the prices of goods rising at least once a week, food shortages, electricity cuts, medicine shortages etc.

Credit Image: dw.com

The lack of finances to purchase imports directly results in a massive shortage of food, and also the prices increase due increases in fuel costs, electricity costs etc. Many people and many families have resorted to having two meals a day now, and some to one. Increasing number of patients dying because they could not find fuel, diesel or petrol or a vehicle with plenty fuel to get the patient to hospitals, especially newborns. Friends and relatives look for particular meds for someone they know, and by the time they get it, the patient has already passed away.

In terms of food in particular, Sri Lanka is forecasted to face a huge crisis because the harvest of the last season has dropped dramatically because of the infamous fertilizer mess up, but even at present, a lot of families more than half of the community struggle to make ends meet and cannot imagine prices going higher than this.

Students, especially most university students, struggle financially as they contemplate giving up their studies to provide for their family. They are faced with a harsh life choice since their daily budget has gone up more than three times the usual amount which they used to pay and hence they tend to cut down costs by cutting down meals etc. Organizations have turned to benefactors and sponsors to ask for money to give in scholarships to sustain students as much as they could.

Credit Image: The Indian Express

Just yesterday, a mother who stole a breadfruit from a tree and sold half to get half a kilo of rice for her child, was arrested. Crime, robberies, suicide and emotional distress rates have also gone up, as people are voicing their displeasure and discomfort in different forms as many of us feel that we’ve been robbed: of our futures, of having a comfortable and affordable life.

Through my own personal experience, food prices are 3 or more times above what it used to be at the beginning of this year, and bus fares are 6 times more than what they were back then. Most of the food items in stores are either empty or quite hefty in price. Communities in Sri Lanka are slowly going hungry and also will be facing long term consequences health wise for eating unbalanced diets resulting in malnutrition, and by eating less number of meals (which is quite common now) will result in starvation.

However, we as Sri Lankans between hardships will always stand strong, and we truly appreciate the genuine help we receive as a nation from the international community. This crisis has taught us to be more sensitive to everyone around us, to recognize their needs, even the unspoken ones. May Sri Lanka get to stand up strong on her feet again soon, and may God bless Lanka with his divine providence.

Sri Lanka Mourns for its Future

By Jayani Randima Marasingh

What’s the current Situation in Sri Lanka? Our country is in the midst of one of the worst economic and political crises ever seen. Our country has just defaulted on its foreign debts for the first time. The country’s 22 million people are facing crippling 12+ hour power cuts, and an extreme scarcity of food, fuel and other essential items such as medicines. Due to this the people of Sri Lanka had to wait in long queues to get their essentials such as fuel and gas.

Sometimes people who have been queuing for such a long time have received nothing; this caused a huge hindrance to the Education in Sri Lanka; shortages have scaled to such heights that examinations for examinations for millions of students in the country had to be postponed due to lack of paper and ink.

Credit Image: The Indian Times

Around five elderly people have died after collapsing in queues. Fuel shortages have led to long lines at petrol stations and rolling power cuts across much of the country. A serious shortage of diesel has shut multiple thermal power plants causing rolling power cuts across the nation. The sudden rise in prices of commodities has pushed up inflation to record levels. Job losses have become a common phenomenon in almost every household. Besides, fall in earning has led to rise in poverty.

The cost of living is rising day by day and the number of people who are unable to continue their lives is increasing daily. But I have never seen politicians in these queues; they have everything; They are rich. This is one of the major weaknesses of our country.

How Sri Lanka fell into its worst Economic Crisis?

The Rajapakse family and their supporters/backers were the main reason for why our country was soon plunged into such a crisis. In 2021, the Rajapaksa government, with the aim of moving toward 100% organic agriculture, chose to ban chemical fertilizers. This decimated farmers’ yields, more so in the rice and sugar sectors. In a bid to revitalize the economy, the government cut taxes.

Credit Image: BBC

When the economy started dwindling, the Rajapaksa government not only resisted aid from neighboring countries but also held off talks with IMF (International Monetary Fund) and Rajapakses robbed innocent people’s money since 2004 and they showed no sympathy for the helpless people in Sri Lanka. Rajapakse’s chose violence. All the politicians who have ruled the country for 72 years should responsible for this bad situation in our country.

Protesters?

The Sri Lanka protests are a series of ongoing protests in Sri Lanka against the Government of Gotabaya Rajapakse. Protesters have taken to streets to show their anger and displeasure over the mismanagement of the economy by the government. The main demand of the protesters is that the government run by the Rajapakse regime immediately resign and paving the way for a completely new set of qualified democratic rulers.

Credit Image: CNN

Protesters have commonly chanted slogans such as ‘Go home Gota’, ‘Go home Rajapakses’, ‘Give us our stolen money’, etc. These protesters have mainly been staged by the public, including teachers, school/university students, religious leaders, priests (the nuns and reverends stood in the frontline to prevent the police from attacking the peaceful protesters), doctors, social activists, sportsmen, engineers, farmers, IT professionals, artists, retired soldiers etc… without any direct political affiliation.

The young generation of our country has played a major part in carrying out protests at Go home Gota village (Gall Face Green). Sometimes these peaceful protesters were unlawfully arrested by police officers. These protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully. This protest has become a rare sight of national unity with all communities in Sri Lanka. That’s the best thing. These protests are still ongoing island wide. These protests brought about some political changes, for example the resignation of the former Prime Minister, former Minister of Finance, etc. These protesters present their protest very peacefully and artistically.

No one knows when our country will be better off. Until then we are with the struggle.

Victory for the Struggle!

No Food No Life : Crisis in Sri Lanka, Sprouting allover Asia

By Neilan D’Souza

How is it possible that today’s modern world still struggles to successfully practice and implement one of the oldest occupations ever known to humankind – Agriculture. And at the same time we are able to easily ignore the fact that it is also responsible for the highest number of deaths in the world – Hunger. No disease/disaster what so ever has come close to claim lives in such figures. No this not another variant of any virus but a mere consequence of a human developed economic system – Capitalism.

According to UN, each day, 25,000 people (around 9 million people every year), including more than 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes. Some 854 million people worldwide are estimated to be undernourished, and high food prices may drive another 100 million into poverty and hunger. Hunger and under-nutrition are the greatest threats to public health, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. And this is not because the world is not able to produce enough food to feed 7.5 billion people but it is simply because most of the food is wasted or not consumed on time.

Image: https://news.cgtn.com

1.5 billion tons of food is wasted every year, we clearly do not have a problem of supply and demand what we have is a problem of production and distribution. Food insecurity is not a natural result of population growth but a man made crisis caused by a failing inhumane system as with many other basic human necessities under a capitalist system which regards food as a commodity which has to be traded in order to make a profit.

The more food we make and sell the more money there is to be made. And so under the disguise of creating a system which produces food for all we have developed a modern intensive farming method which aim to produce greater quantities to be sold, in contrast has brought down the quality of food and also caused immense environmental damage. It is only now in the recent decade that we have began to witness its catastrophic effects in our daily lives.

This vicious cycle of a capital lead economy has to go away because the new normal of Climate Change, Food Insecurity, Consumerism and Throw-away Culture simply cannot sustain the World anymore. An eye opening example is the present economic crisis which the common people in Sri Lanka are suffering from. The present government’s move to suddenly ban chemical fertilizers overnight led to drastic crop failure at the same time when the country was slowly reviving itself from the damages caused by the pandemic.

https://news.un.org

Today this has escalated the cost of food so much that most of the people in Sri Lanka can only afford one meal a day. It is impossible to imagine the struggle of a country where almost 30% of the population are engaged in agriculture but cannot afford even three meals a day.

Without food there is no life – and if the intention of food production is catered towards earning capital and not life we need to stop and undo such systems which requires involvement from each one of us. We all can begin from denying the popular throw-away culture, cutting down on consuming more food than we actually require and without neglect we must atleast share food with those who do not have or fall in short of.

If there is one thing that we Christians must learn from the teachings of the Bible is that from the Bible’s beginning all the way to the end, there’s a clear picture of God’s compassion for the poor. God is passionate about caring for the needs of the vulnerable, and also promises to champion their cause-even when the rest of the world neglects them.