Sunday, August 06, 2017

Interfaith Leaders Lobby to Preserve Foreign Aid

 “Please don’t get lost in the arguments and the numbers. Think about what’s important to you, and what you want to say, and why this funding matters to people you know, to members of your church, and speak from the heart.”  -Martin Shupack, director of advocacy at Church World Service
For 400 Bread grassroots advocates, Lobby Day occurred this past June 13. The ask was multi-pronged: 1) Oppose any budget cuts that would increase hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world; 2) Fully fund domestic safety-net and international development programs that end hunger and poverty; 3) Oppose harmful structural changes to SNAP, Medicaid, and international development assistance.

Photo: Ari Shaw/Bread for the World
A month later,  a much smaller group of faith-based advocates came to Washington for a two-day fly-in sponsored by the  Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance. Since 2013, the IWGFA has focused on sustaining and increasing US public funding for poverty focused development assistance.

On July 19, 35 faith leaders from 19 states visited Capitol Hill to visit congressional offices to urge their representatives and senators to preserve funding for U.S. foreign assistance programs. "They shared their stories and faith-inspired convictions for why it is important for the U.S. government to maintain its funding support for humanitarian relief and development assistance," said the ELCA blog.

The group included pastors and religious leaders from many faith communities. The timing of the visit was important, as Congress is about to make important decisions on the 2018 budget, amid proposals of deep cuts to foreign aid programs..

The faith leaders who visited Capitol Hill on that day had access to the knowledge and resources of Bread for the World, Church World Service, Oxfam, Food for the Hungry,  and Islamic Relief.  Read full account  of the IWGFA visit in Bread for the World newsletter.

“Faith communities share a common religious call to respond to poverty, hunger, sickness, disasters and displacement,” Lucas Koach, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Food for the Hungry, said following a similar lobbying effort in 2016. “Our faith traditions and scriptures also testify to the moral imperative of a robust government role in caring for and empowering the impoverished and vulnerable,”  

Lori Walke, Associate Pastor of Mayflower United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, shared her impressions of the 2016 lobbying effort in the newsletter of the UCC Kansas-Oklahoma conference. "Life-saving foreign aid has never been more critical.  We, the faith community and our government, have the resources to enact the Gospel of Matthew’s notes: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.  I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25:35-36)

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