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Pope critisizes 'guns but no food' in conflict zones

June 13, 2016

The pope has noted "a strange paradox" that food often cannot get into conflict zones but that guns can. This comes days after the WFP delivered food for the first time since 2012 to the Syrian town of Daraya.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Spaziani

Pope Francis told a meeting at the UN's World Food Program (WFP) that preventing supplies from reaching war zones was a violation of international law, adding that the world faced a "strange paradox."

Francis' visit to the WFP was the first by a pope to the Rome-based organization, which provides emergency food aid for 80 million people in 80 countries.

"Wars are fed, not persons. In some cases hunger itself is used as a weapon of war," he said.

"The death count multiplies because the number of people dying of hunger and thirst is added to that of battlefield casualties and the civilian victims of conflicts and attacks. We are fully aware of this, yet we allow our conscience to be anesthetized. We become desensitized," the pope said.

The beleaguered city of Daraya, southwest of the capital, Damascus.
The beleaguered city of Daraya, southwest of the capital, Damascus.Image: Getty Images/AFP/H. Ayash

A pope for the poor

The pope drew attention to global indifference toward refugees, the poor and the hungry.

"Whereas forms of aid and development projects are obstructed by involved and incomprehensible political decisions, skewed ideological visions and impenetrable customs barriers, weaponry is not.

The Argentine said the rich world was increasingly desensitized, "growing immune to other people's tragedies, seeing them as something 'natural' ... all those human lives turn into one more news story.

"We have made the fruits of the earth - a gift to humanity - commodities for a few, thus engendering exclusion. The consumerism in which our societies are immersed has made us grow accustomed to excess and to the daily waste of food," he said.

"We need to be reminded that food discarded is, in a certain sense, stolen from the table of poor and the starving."

Hunger amidst plenty

The pope also noted that hunger persists despite a global surplus of food and waste.

"Let us be clear," he said. "Food shortage is not something natural; it is not a given, something obvious or self-evident. The fact that today, well into the 21st century, so many people suffer from this scourge is due to a selfish and wrong distribution of resources, to the merchandizing of food," he said.

Food into Daraya

A nine-truck convoy arrived in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, after receiving the Syrian government's approval last week.

It was able to deliver rice, lentils, chickpeas, beans, bulgur, oil, salt and sugar, with enough wheat flour to feed the population of 4,000 for a month.

The government's approval has enabled the WFP to send convoys to 19 besieged locations in Syria this month.

jbh/bw (AP, Reuters)