Raising pigs is a vital staple of many farmers around the world and a major source of food for many areas. For as nearly as long as humans have been domesticating animals, humans have been raising pigs. Archaeological evidence suggests that pigs were domesticated from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BC in the Near East in the Tigris Basin.
But of the 3 major monotheistic faiths of the world – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, only Christians consume pork, while the others consider the pig to be “unclean” or “haram”. Why is pork forbidden in those religions, but not in Christianity?
The religious restriction of pigs goes back millennia. Both the Torah (Leviticus 11:7) and the Quran (An-Naĥl 16:115) explicitly forbid eating pigs. The view of the pig in the ancient world was that pigs were unclean because of their nature, for example, rolling in mud. Additionally, it was likely that because of farming and improper cooking methods at the time, the flesh of pigs was a common cause of bacterial infections.
The view of pigs being unclean carried over to the very first Christians. Being that the Apostles were are all Jews, they followed the Old Covenant dietary laws. But as more and more gentiles were converted, there arose debate as to whether or not they were bound by Jewish dietary law also.
In Acts 10, though, things change. Cornelius, a God-fearing Roman centurion, has a vision in which he is instructed to send for Saint Peter. At the time, it was forbidden for Jews to eat or associate with Gentiles. The next day, while the men who were sent to deliver Cornelius’ message to Peter were on their way, Saint Peter also had a vision.
In his vision, “He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” (Acts 10:11:15)
After his vision, the men sent by Cornelius arrived and Peter accompanied them back to the Centurion’s home. When arriving, despite the restriction of Jews and Gentiles eating together, Peter baptized Cornelius and his entire family, and stayed with him.
From that point on, and specifically decreed in Acts 15, Christians were not bound by the dietary restrictions against pork. This was the culmination of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 15, where He says “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person, but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”
Today, there are millions of people around the world, particularly in desperately poor areas, who directly depend on pigs for livelihood. In many areas, raising pigs is the only feasible source of meat and is the difference between starvation and life. And while it may not seem glamorous, one of the most Christian and practical things you can do is to help the poor around the world is by helping them build pig farms!
To help poor farmers and other communities who struggle with access to vital resources, The Pontifical Mission Societies have created MISSIO, a new and innovative Catholic crowd-funding platform that allows you to directly assist the Catholic charities and projects all over the world.
MISSIO allows you to search through life-giving and life-saving projects – ones providing for basic needs, others extending the Good News of the Gospel to remote areas, and still more bringing the light of the Lord’s loving-kindness to those in the darkest circumstances. With MISSIO, you can choose one of these missions of Pope Francis and donate directly to them, knowing that 100% of your donation will go directly there. You can also share them on social media and reignite the discussion and remind people of these forgotten situations, so others can support the projects also.
Launched by Pope Francis himself, the MISSIO platform offers a direct connection to change-makers who work on the “front lines” making a difference for the poor and forgotten through direct, daily service.
There are opportunities to help sustain a parish pig farm in Cameroon, help build a sustainable piggery in Liberia, or help The Missionary Sisters of the Resurrection to improve their existing pig rearing structure.
MISSIO is powered by The Pontifical Mission Societies, the Catholic Church’s official support organization for overseas missions since 1822, providing for a global network of people who are making a difference for communities in need around the globe.
Check out MISSIO today and start giving!