An evil force was threatening planet Earth. Thousands were dying every day. Millions more were threatened by hunger and starvation. Mothers and children fled the onslaught, but could not escape it.
But there was hope. A small group, invested with superhuman abilities, could change everything. If they chose to overcome their personal priorities, this small group could do amazing things. They could save the day.
I got back from watching “The Avengers” last weekend. Since that day in 1963 when I bought the first issue of the comic for 12 cents, I’ve been a fan of those superhero tales.
But I might just as easily have been talking about this week’s G8 Summit, where world leaders have the power to dramatically change the lives of nearly a billion people who suffer from hunger. Millions right now are facing acute food shortages. The prospect of famine looms in West Africa.
Like “The Avengers,” the G8 leaders face internal challenges. Five years of slow economic growth, budget deficits, high unemployment, weak banking systems, and a currency crisis in Europe have global leaders looking to fix their own problems before they fix the troubles of the rest of the world.
In the movie, Captain America and Thor needed to put down their own differences and make personal sacrifices in order to do the noble and right thing and save the world.
In the same way, the world’s wealthy economies face very real difficulties — but they pale in comparison to the life-threatening struggle many around the world are facing.
Sazoulay Zacharie is a father of seven in Chad who farms one acre of land to feed his family. Because of poor rain, the sorghum he harvested last year was only a fraction of what his family needs for survival.
“This is meaningless for a family of nine people who need to eat at least once a day,” said Sazoulay. To buy food, Sazoulay carries bricks. He says that by carrying 2,000 bricks, he can earn enough money to buy a bag or two of sorghum.
As it will be months before anyone can harvest this year’s crops, famine is a real threat. As many as 15 million people across West Africa — including Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal — are facing food shortages.
Who will come to their rescue? While comic-book superheroes always save the day, it’s not yet clear that the G8 leaders will.
President Obama has made food security an emphasis for the meetings this week. He has invited the presidents of four African countries to join him at Camp David. At the 2009 G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the heads of the G8 countries promised $20 billion toward helping farmers in the poorest countries provide the food that they lacked at the time. But only 7 percent of those funds have been disbursed.
These funds could go a long way toward fixing some of the greatest, most oppressive evils humanity faces. The G8 leaders really do have superpowers. They can cure disease, bring clean water, and end hunger.
The best comic-book heroes rise above their own interests and personal problems. They are always flawed characters. But real superheroes also make the personal sacrifices necessary to put others before themselves. Comic book heroes represent not fantasy ideals, but rather the highest expression of the human spirit: To love your neighbor as yourself.
It remains to be seen whether the G8 leaders will emerge from Camp David as true superheroes.
Read more about the upcoming G8 and G20 summits. The G8 Summit will be held this week, May 18-19, at Camp David, Maryland, and the G20 Summit will take place June 18-19 in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Tweet G8 leaders: As global leaders meet at the G8 and G20 summits this May and June, we have an opportunity to make sure they hear that hunger must be on the agenda — and that bold, achievable commitments must be made to prioritize nutrition and food security.