Father Piero Gheddo, Missionary of PIME, on
FLORENCE, Italy, 18 NOV. 2002 (ZENIT).
Don't blame all the world's problems on globalization, cautions a
missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.
PIME Father Piero Gheddo, who has been director of Mondo e Missione
magazine for 35 years, is an expert on the missionary world. He spoke
with the Fides news agency on the occasion of the recent European Social
Q: Regarding globalization: The idea of a world village founded
on political, economic and ethic common values, not only surprises
people, it provokes different reactions and often drastic opposition
like that of the "no global" movements, who are at the moment
in Florence for a Social Forum. What is the reason for this reaction?
Father Gheddo: The objections to globalization are
understandable. In fact, it brings to the fore the tragedy of our world
divided in two: North and South, those who have too much and those who
have too little.
In the past, hunger did exist in the world but the hungry peoples lived
in distant lands. Today, thanks to the development of new technologies
and mass-media techniques, information and the exchange of ideas happens
more rapidly, actually, in real time.
Therefore, economic, social and cultural contrasts between peoples
emerge vividly: We live in the year 2000 after Christ and most of the
peoples of black Africa in rural areas still practice subsistence
economy. While in 1960 Africa exported food, today it imports about 30%
of what it consumes.
So it happens that rich countries are ever richer and poor countries are
ever poorer, and while globalized countries advance, the others stay put
or go backward. The common market is considered to be the main cause,
and everything leads to the idea that globalization is the new social
concern of the 21st century.
Q: So, the "no-global people" are right ...?
Father Gheddo: First of all, we must say that this attitude
toward the phenomenon of globalization lacks in-depth analysis of
development and underdevelopment.
Thanks to globalization, in the last half of century, much of the Third
World has developed. I refer mainly to Asia, where progress is evident
even in very poor countries such as Bangladesh, while countries governed
by socialist dictatorships have not opened to a market economy—North
Korea and Myanmar—have been left behind.
India had its last famine in 1966, less widespread than Ethiopia or
Sudan, and with a population of 1 billion compared to 80 million, it
exports food, while in Ethiopia and Sudan people die of starvation.
A 2002 World Bank study says that between 1990 and 1999 those living
below the poverty line have diminished from 27.6% to 14.7% in eastern
Asia and the Pacific; from 44% to 40% in southern Asia; from 16.8% to
12.1% in Latin America and the Caribbean; from 2.4% to 2.1% in the
Middle East and north Africa. Therefore, the major cause of the gap
between the rich and the poor is not the world market.
Q: Which are the main causes of underdevelopment?
Father Gheddo: A few years ago a Consolata missionary in Tanzania
told me: "There are four pillars of African underdevelopment:
fanaticism, illiteracy, corrupt government and armies."
The radical cause of the increasing gap between the rich and the poor is
the lack of education and democratic growth of the poorest peoples. The
policy of governing [the] elite instead of aiming at education and
health care for rural peoples, has privileged the cities—creating
oversized cities where life is unbearable—and abandoned countryside.
Development can only come from education, evolution of the mind and
culture, from education ..., from stable governments, from economic
freedom and world free market. In fact, the global market and those
countries that live in peace, that are open to a market economy and have
a sufficient education level and economic freedom, offer possibilities
of rapid development which did not exist in the past.
At this point it is most important to remember the experience described
by John Paul II in "Redemptoris Missio": "The development
of a people does not derive primarily from money, goods or technical
structures but from maturity of mentality and customs." Thinking
about all this, I would also like to add that the slogan that reads
"the South is poor because the North is rich," or vice versa,
is a huge lie that certainly does not help the poor peoples.
Q: Are there other positive aspects of the globalization
Father Gheddo: As the Holy Father said, "globalization a
priori is neither good nor bad. It will become what people will make of
it. No system has itself as ultimate aim, and it is necessary to insist
on the fact that globalization must be at the service of human beings,
of solidarity and common welfare."
There are negative aspects of globalization, so we must be very cautious
about such a new phenomenon: We must not attribute it to the devil nor
must we acclaim it. Another aspect of globalization—that I think it is
the most important aspect even if nobody ever mentions it—is its
cultural and religious phenomenon: Peoples who lived far away from each
other come together, discuss and argue; exchange of cultural and
religious values take place.
This is undoubtedly a very positive aspect. For the first time in human
history, there is a movement of peoples toward unity and not division,
toward peace and not war, toward human rights and not oppression and
Because of all these reasons, it is an unforgivable mistake to attribute
globalization to the devil. We must improve mechanisms, rules and
workings and not go against an epochal fact that is inevitable and
positive. Our times, and most of all our young people, ask for optimism
and hope, not pessimism.
In the "no global" view there is too much pessimism and
prejudice in regard of the modern world and the history of peoples who
are rich and Christian. The evil is condemned but there is no
recognition of the good that they have done. The Universal Declaration
of Human Rights, for example, has its origins in the Western
civilization, under the influence of the Word of God. Today, the
principles contained in it are the common inheritance of all peoples.
Q: You have seen and shared suffering, poverty and misery,
distress in all parts of the world, but also the hopes of individuals
and peoples. From a missionary point of view, which benefits can be
foreseen for the poor of the world?
Father Gheddo: First of all—as the Holy Father incisively
recalls in his letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte"—we must start
from Christ, and go back to the Gospel and to faith, renewing Christian
If we were better Christians, we would be able to understand and be of
more help to the poor of the world. A proof of this is that Christian
missionaries—both Catholic and Protestants—with their lay volunteers
generate development among the poor, while government projects of
international cooperation often build "cathedrals in the
Missionaries build bridges of understanding and reciprocal education
among peoples; government projects do not. In this sense, it is
necessary to rediscover a certain degree of austerity of life so as to
be truly brothers and sisters of the poor.
We live too much in the superfluous and in waste. How much simpler life
could be! We must also offer young people great ideals for life, educate
them above all to face the challenge of our globalized era: to be
brothers and sisters of the poor.
The development of people is a most complex theme. Our materialistic
civilization reduces it to a matter of economy: rich and poor. Maritain
says the root of human development lies in a people's attitude toward
God, from which its derives its culture, the idea of nature, the human
person, work, the journey to the destination.
The mission of the Church is to proclaim and bear witness to Jesus the
only Savior of humanity. Human development comes from God and from
Missionary activity needs men and women who devote their life to
educating and being educated, sharing, building bridges of understanding
and solidarity between the North and South of the world.
The Church in fact was the first to globalize the world proclaiming the
Gospel. As Jesus ascends to heaven he entrusts his mission to the
Church: "Go out into the whole world proclaiming the Gospel to all