The many works of the Acton Institute bring us constantly into contact with the creative power of human liberty. We are regularly impressed, I think, with the potential for economic growth and dynamism. In this issue of Religion & Liberty, our thoughts turn to situations where that growth and dynamism is most needed: the desperate situations of poverty and hunger that still persist.
“To feed the hungry” remains a basic work of mercy, the goal of much charitable activity. It is also the work of major institutions such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Our feature interview in this issue is with Tony Hall, former Democratic congressman and, until recently, U.S. ambassador to FAO in Rome. He spoke with the head of our Rome office, Kishore Jayabalan.
“To feed the hungry” is also a basic economic imperative. Indeed, the economy has to provide food for the vast majority; charity and aid are necessarily limited to feeding only a small proportion of any population. Piero Morandini gives an update from the world of agricultural and biotechnology, and the prospects they offer for more abundant and efficient food production. It's important to know the facts on the ground (that's where the food grows!), and his article helps us do that. Just one fact to remember: Almost 30 percent of total crop production is lost to pests. If something could be done about that … but you can read it for yourself.
I draw your attention also to John Schneider's article on Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical letter, released earlier this year: God is Love (Deus Caritas Est). We will be returning to that encyclical repeatedly as it addresses two fundamental points. First, for all Christians, it speaks of the nature of divine and human love. Second, in particular for us at Acton, it addresses an issue close to our mission, namely, the proper role of charity, and the difference between truly faith-filled responses and bureaucratic ones. It was gratifying to see issues we deal with at Acton treated so sympathetically in God is Love.
Finally, our “Liberal Tradition” profile subject is the Reverend Edmund Opitz. Most of our subjects in that feature are long dead, and their work has stood the test of time. Rev. Opitz died only recently, but his name will be familiar to followers of Acton's work, and it is not necessary to wait to declare that his work will endure. Requiescat in pace.