There are many attempts, even if not quantified, to attack religious and their lay collaborators who have chosen a constant and daily missionary commitment, aimed at building dialogue and sharing. A work that is rarely told but indeed sowing seeds of peace and hope. Why?
Their work came back to the news with Nadia De Munari, the lay missionary killed last April in Chimbote - six hours of travelling from the capital Lima, in Peru - where she was running six kindergartens with more than 500 children and with Christian Carlassare. This Comboni Missionary, nominated by Pope Francis on the 8th March last at the age of only 43 bishop of Rumbek in South Sudan, where he has been for more than fifteen years, was attacked by an armed group who shot him several times in the legs with the evident intent to intimidate him.
The missionaries - priests, laypersons and women religious - who lost their lives in their post in Latin America, Africa and Asia were 20 in 2020. In twenty years, from 2000 to 2020, 535 pastoral workers, including five bishops were killed worldwide. The number of lay missionaries working in the world is today 376,188.
This violence against pastoral workers is not limited to foreigners but concerns also local ones. In Nigeria, about 20 priests, including eight seminarians, have been killed in the past five years and more than 50 have been kidnapped; since June 2015 there have been between 11,500 and 12,000 Christian deaths due to Fulani jihadist shepherds, Boko Haram and "street bandits".
The case of Nigeria is significant because it indicates that violence against missionaries, priests, pastoral workers, and simple faithful is not apart from the crisis and conflict situations that grip the society as a whole in which they are living. In confirmation of this perception, The Guardian reports that, in 2019, more than 300 human rights activists were killed and Christians who are hit and kidnapped in northern Nigeria are mainly Igbo. Victims are often separated at gunpoint according to their tribe and religion. Many of them are in attempts of theft or robbery, for kidnapping or involved in shootings in contexts characterized by economic poverty and degradation.
Distorted ideologies, false religiosity and concrete economic interests that serve as a pretext for abuses against human rights and the dignity of people often mark the scenario on which this violence takes place. Repubblica, an Italian daily Newspaper, for example, reports the NGO Land Matrix’s study, Chi si è mangiato l'Africa: in 20 anni ceduti a società straniere 30 milioni di ettari di terra -Who ate Africa: in 20 years 30 million hectares of land was sold to foreign companies -, an area larger than Italy on which Asians, Europeans, Emiratis, Lebanese and Americans exploit the forests and more.
Land grabbing is an expanding phenomenon, which, among other things, creates great risks to the environment, causes economic migration due to climate change, and raises a threat that does not appear so distant. With hundreds of millions of hungry people, a growing population and the devastating agriculture influence the environment: for how much longer will we have enough food for everyone?
This question arises every time we talk about hunger, water scarcity or climate change, "Is the world population really getting too many for everyone to eat?" Many are quickly pointing the finger at population growth. The limitation of births - see China's only child - or abortion have become a cure-all for the demographic problem. Therefore, according to data from the WHO (World Health Organization), between 40 and 56 million abortions are performed every year, 153,425 per day, 6,393 per hour.
Meanwhile, everyone knows that since the 1960s, global growth in food production has outpaced population growth. The current food systems with its highly unequal food distribution gives way to hunger and malnutrition: in 2019, 690 million adults, or 8.9% of the world population, and 7% of children under five were undernourished. The cultural changes in nutrition and the amount of food consumed make 40% of adults overweight while more than 3 billion people eat unhealthy diets. The unsustainable costs of food production are due to enormous food losses and waste.
Population growth is undoubtedly an important driver of the increase in food demand (See Population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development), but the real problem is food production systems which are also one of the main causes of biodiversity loss and air and water pollution.
During its summit last April, the UN Commission on Population and Development considered, for the first time in its history, food and nutrition in the context of sustainable development and examined whether food and nutrition policies and programs promote sustainable production and consumption, maternal and neonatal health, infant nutrition, women's empowerment, all in view of the upcoming Food Systems Summit.
In its verbose, eluding, diplomatic and intangible language, the UN organization, insofar, is recognizing for the first time that too many people in the world are not the problem. The current systems of food production are, because instead of worrying about people, they only think of their immediate profit and obviously, under subtle pretexts, lash out with violence against priests, religious and social activists as soon as they denounce the concrete ideological, geopolitical and economic interests hidden behind those who materially commits violence.
The devil teaches pots but not lids, reminds us of a popular saying. Food security is really a threat for the future, population growth is a fact, and the responsibility to address both issues concerns all. However, muting the voice speaking the truth is not the solution. Don't try what you can't accomplish, says a Yoruba proverb, or do not try to cover the sun with two fingers against it.