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FAO Director-General meets Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

Increased role sought for world's religions in hunger fight

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
José Graziano da Silva and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
14 September 2012, Rome - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian Church, as part of an ongoing effort to enlist the world's major religions more closely in the fight against hunger.

Patriarch Bartholomew told Graziano da Silva he is "very receptive" to the Director-General's invitation to play an increased role in efforts against hunger and to achieve the "Zero Hunger" challenge of eradicating hunger, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference.

The Ecumenical Patriarch promised he would bring these questions before the Orthodox faithful and would discuss food security with Pope Benedict XVI next time they meet.

The Green Patriarch

Patriarch Bartholomew and Graziano da Silva also discussed sustainable development during their meeting in Istanbul. Bartholomew I is a noted environmentalist and is often referred to as the Green Patriarch.

"The word ‘ecology' contains the prefix ‘eco,' which derives from the Greek word oikos, signifying ‘home' or ‘dwelling.' How unfortunate, then, and indeed how selfish it is that we have reduced its meaning and restricted its application. This world is indeed our home. Yet it is also the home of everyone (...) it is a sign of arrogance to imagine that only the present generation enjoys its resources", Patriarch Bartholomew has written.

Graziano da Silva noted that sustainable development requires a convergence between the environmental, social and economic dimensions of development. He highlighted the importance not only of  providing enough food for everyone in the world, but doing so without destroying the environment - to save and grow.

Moral issue

"Eradicating hunger not only makes economic and political sense, it is also a moral issue," Graziano da Silva said.

The FAO Director-General has been actively seeking to involve the world's religions more closely in the fight against hunger and recently reached out to Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Cairo's Al-Azar Mosque and University,  

In a letter sent earlier this month to Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb he drew the Imam's attention to the Secretary-General's "Zero Hunger" Challenge and described the eradication of hunger as a "moral imperative".
Graziano da Silva met with the Grand Imam last year in Cairo, after being elected as Director-General. "We must achieve global food security in order to have a more secure world", said Graziano da Silva, also informing the Sheikh of FAO's work in Somalia and the Horn of Africa. 

Similar letters are due to be sent out to religious leaders.

In June, Graziano da Silva was received in a private audience by Pope Benedict XVI, in which he called for the "renewed support of the Catholic Church in the fight against hunger at the global and local levels, as well as the mobilization of its network to support the goal of a food-secure world."

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