Written by Gregg Brekke
Echoing food-justice related concerns and goals of the UCC's Mission:1, a group of U.S. religious leaders were brought together by Bread for the World to meet with Senators on Wednesday, November 2, to discuss the relationship between ethical values and American international policy.
In a closed-door conversation with Senators, hosted by Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), the religious leaders shared their concerns that some in Congress are targeting cuts to programs that assist families in impoverished countries and communities. The U.S. Senate is expected to consider in the coming days the fiscal year 2012 Appropriations for the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, which funds many of these programs.
The religious leaders who organized the Senate briefing are speaking up because of a shared belief that the United States has a moral responsibility to respond to suffering and poverty anywhere around the world. The coalition, which is comprised of Christian, Jewish and Muslim officials, are underscoring to Senators that American-led humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance programs are essential to help people in the poorest nations lift themselves out of poverty.
"As people of faith, we believe the moral measure of the budget debate is how the most poor and vulnerable people fare. Every proposal needs to be looked at in terms of how it treats those Jesus called 'the least of these,'" said the Rev. David Beckmann, Bread for the World president. "If people of faith contact the Senate in the next few days, we can win in [the goal of continued funding] Senate vote."
The clergy members reminded Senators of the ethics and values that inspire U.S. assistance to families in impoverished countries and communities around the world. The religious leaders are emphasizing the need for continued American international assistance to help those who are hungry and lack clean water, who are victims of natural disasters such as the famine in the Horn of Africa, who need life-saving medications, who are children in need of education and who are refugees from war and other calamities.
The American faith community is taking a lead in providing a moral and faithful voice for policymakers throughout the budget and deficit reduction discussions. Many of the religious leaders in attendance on Wednesday have joined with the UCC in the Faithful Budget Campaign. The campaign is encouraging the administration and Congress to maintain a robust commitment to domestic and international poverty programs.
From Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11—11-11-11), the UCC’s goals are to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC also is asking its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.
For more information on Mission:1, please visit <ucc.org/mission1>.