Mr. Tony Hall US Ambassador
Thank you . I’m very glad to be here with you and I’ve come with my wife Janet and some friends so we are very happy to be with you.
Recently I was in Ethiopia and there were 7 million people that were at risk. That means 7 million people right now are on the verge of starvation in one country. And this is supposed to be one of the good years in Ethiopia because this year they have rain and a little bit of harvest is coming and yet, at the same time, there are 7 million people right now in one country facing starvation.
I cannot tell you how many people that we saw suffering. We saw lots of orphans. We saw lots of people that were infected with HIV AIDS virus and we saw lots of starving children. Before this day is over, 25 thousand people will die and 25 thousand people died yesterday and 25 thousand will die tomorrow. Two billion people in the world today make less than 2 US $ a day.
And in the country of Ethiopia the annual wage is about a little bit less than 100 euros per year.
What does God say to us, what does Jesus say to us about this?
The padre before me said some wonderful things about Truth and about the Scriptures and actually about what Jesus. But the Bible is full of verses that deal with the poor and the sick, the hurting, the orphans, the people that are in prison.
The hungry – as a matter of fact there are over 2.500 verses in the Bible that deal with this issue. You probably have heard Matthew 25 but I consider Matthew 25 one of the best chapters in the world relative to how we should treat the poor.
It says at the end of the chapter – if you have a chance, read it – it talks about ‘the least of these’. Some of the people that some of you represent here …I have been talking to a couple of lawyers here – you represent the least of these – the poor in the city of Rome. There are a couple of verses that I really like in Proverbs that are, as far as I am concerned, very unusual, because Jesus says: ‘If you are gracious to the poor, you honour me’. He says almost the same thing almost two chapters later; in chapter 19 of Proverbs he says ‘If you help the poor, you lend to me’. I find it amazing that we can help God that we can honour Him that we can lend to Him by being good to the poor.
God is pleased with us when we do this, He won’t forget. I became a believer in Jesus about 25 years ago. It was my first year in the US Congress and I was about the age of 37 then and up until that time I had a very successful life. I was an athlete, as a young man and a businessman, I was a State Senator and then I became a US Congressman. I had money in my pockets and I had esteem, and I had a great position.
Most people in the world could consider me a success. But I thought that something was wrong in me. I felt empty and I felt vague. I was tired of the way I was starting to think. And my selfishness and pride were hurting me inside. I felt that I had to change my life. Through a series of meetings and at a Prayer Breakfast I went to, another man came into my life, I received Jesus. I actually and sometimes it feels strange somehow but I actually fell in love with Jesus. And my life changed towards my wife and my children and my job. I found that amazing, how my life was starting to reverse.
I had a very good friend at the time that would come in every week and spend a lot of time with me. We would read the Bible, pray together, and we would talk about God and as the padre talked to us; we talked about how the Scriptures relate to us, what they mean to us. My friend, who was a mentor, said to me, ‘Don’t you think that it is time that you start to bring God into your workplace, where you work?’ I said, ‘I agree but I don’t know how to do that because I don’t want to push God down people’s throats. I don’t want to have a pin that says: I love God, I don’t want to turn people off’. So I thought about it and I began to pray about how to do this in a way that was comfortable to me, where I could talk about God but not in a way to say, ‘Hey, I am a politician, I love God’. That’s phony and I didn’t want to be a phony. Not too long after that I took my first trip in 1984 to the country. Again, that was the first time I had been to Ethiopia. Now that was the time when they had that terrible famine when 6 or 7 thousand people were dying everyday. That day, I went to this compound that was up in the country from the town of Addis Ababa to visit Mother Theresa’s sisters of charity compound. And the doctor whom we met said, ‘I want you to go outside with me because since you have arrived in this compound thousands of Ethiopians have come and they have brought their children and I have to go out and pick 6 or 7 children because that’s all we can handle today and I want you to go with me. There were thousands of children there and we were about to pick out 5 or 6 children and the rest would have to die.
These people, as I was walking beside them, thought I was a doctor and were holding their children out and were shouting: ‘Please take my child, please take my child!’
There were thousands and we could only pick 5 or 6. I never got over that. In the same way I went up further on a plateau and 50 thousand people had come from around Ethiopia to this place because they heard that there was going to be food and medicine and stuff like that. All these people who had been walking all this way had been looking for food, medicines; there was nobody there, and they all just started to lay down to die. When I saw that, I never got over that day. When I was coming home I began to remember what my friend said to me, ‘Don’t you think it is time to bring God into your workplace? So I came home committed, thinking about the Scriptures and thinking of the 2.500 verses I had read about and thought: ‘This is what I can do in the Council of the United States, this is what I can do in my workplace, I can help poor people like this, in Ethiopia, in other countries of the world, in my own country, in America.
So, in the Congress I legislated for more laws to protect the poor, I helped to produce more money, to feed them and give them immunization, and I spent a lot of years on helping the poor.
So this is the way I was able to bring God into my workplace. And I was able to do it in a way in which I could do my work during the day, love God, help the poor but also knew that God would be very pleased with this.
Right now I am the US Ambassador to the UN organization in Rome. I am an Ambassador to FAO where Francesca works and to the World Food Programme, to IFAD. Together with these organizations we feed about 110 thousand people a year. And really the work that is done here in Rome is tremendous work. The United States help a lot and I want to give you just one statistic. The United States to the World Food Programme gives 57% of all the money and food in the world and the other 43% is given by the rest of the world. I’m not saying this to brag about the US, I’m saying this because a lot of people don’t know this but in America we care very much about helping people in a humanitarian way and we do put our money – and we put our food where our mouth is. But often times we don’t get credit for this. Having said that, let me give you another statistic: of all the people in the world, all of the countries put together, that’s 110 million people we feed, that is only 10% of the people in the world that are hungry. 90% of the people in the world that are hungry today, 810 million people we are not helping. We are not able to help them. We can do better, we can do much better. I think this way, that we can do better belongs to people like us, people that love the Lord, people that can.
And it’s obvious that there are two things: there’s a lack of political will and there’s a lack of spiritual will. I know many of us care very much about the poor and some of you actually help them, and you must think that sometimes what I do doesn’t count very much, it’s very little thing. But some time ago someone asked the same question to Mother Theresa, they said to her: ‘Don’t you think that what you are doing is a drop in the bucket?’
‘No’, she said, ‘it’s not a drop in a bucket. It’s a drop in the ocean.’ But she went on to say, ‘If I didn’t do it, there would be one less drop.’
When you have faith like this and you act upon it God is there, God provides the extra-push, that extra-power. You really don’t have to say too much about it. When you are with people and you are together, God is with you, He follows you around, He helps you, and He gives you a special power. I’ve seen this many times. I’ve been to 115 nations in this world and I’ve seen this so much. My friend here John was with me when a couple of months ago we went to Ethiopia and I led a group of 15 people and one of the men went with us and he was not a believer. He did not believe in God he did not know much about it.
But because he went with us, and because he saw the poor and because he saw some wonderful people in Ethiopia and the people surrounding him, it is amazing how his life changed at the end of the trip.
This man said to me at the end of the trip, ‘I’m going to start reading the Bible and I’m going to start believing in Jesus’.
You don’t have to shove God down people’s throat. People will see it in you.
And they want to know: what is it that you have that is different? I want that. Well, this is what I wanted to say today and I appreciate the chance that I have to say thanks to Francesca for interpreting, she’s done a great job; she’s got a wonderful spirit. And I want to thank Anna for inviting me to be with you. And I don’t know if you do, but I’d be very happy to answer any questions you may have.