David Beasley, Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning UN World Food Programme, reveals the words his work is founded on
The Nobel Peace Prize 2020 has been awarded to the World Food Programme – and it’s all based on the command of Jesus, says Executive Director and committed Christian, David Beasley.
The award was made in honour of World Food Programme’s contribution to tackling global hunger in 2020 in the midst of continued conflict, famine and the Covid-19 pandemic. In his acceptance speech Beasley shared his inspiration from the teachings of Jesus to love your neighbour.
“From a very young age, I learned from Jesus of Nazareth, as he taught from the Torah: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ I have come to understand that a better translation of what Jesus actually said is: ‘Love your neighbour as your equal.’
“Think for a moment what that really means. Imagine every woman, man, girl and boy we share this planet with is our equal.”
David got his grounding in the Bible while growing up attending church in South Carolina. But it wasn’t until he was in his early 20s while studying microbiology at university that he began a search for who Jesus is.
He dedicated his life to helping others through his political career that started with him running for the House of Representatives in 1979 and eventually becoming Governor of South Carolina in the mid-1990s. But he began to realise that helping others didn’t make him a Christian. In 1984 when he received a cassette tape of the Bible at a Christian breakfast he began a journey to discover the reality of Christ. Within a week he’d listened to the entire New Testament in his car.
But it wasn’t until after he’d completed a thorough study of all other faiths that he eventually responded to a gospel appeal during a missions night at his local Baptist church.
His Christian faith eventually inspired him to take the role as head of the World Food Programme. At the time in 2017 he says 80 million were on the brink of starvation. But over the past year that number has risen significantly, which is why he was so grateful for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which has put a spotlight on the crisis.
“Before Covid the number of people marching towards the brink of starvation had gone up to 135 million, primarily because of man-made conflict and climate extremes. But since Covid that number is now 270 million people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. This year is a call to action for the world to wake and realise what we’re facing.”
David says the challenge can seem overwhelming, particularly when he sees the reality of devastation face to face. But meeting children on his travels gives him hope that he can continue to make a difference.
“When you’re out there and see so much war, so much conflict that’s man-made – it’s heart-breaking. It’s easy to get despondent, but you can’t do that. When you’re out on the field and you see the heart and the spirit of those young girls and boys it just gives you inspiration – that’s why you’re there to do everything you possibly can.”
The UN World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian aid organisation.
From Direction Magazine issue 277