From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Church leaders to Washington: 'Keep your promises'

Date Thu, 1 Apr 2004 15:15:20 -0600

Note #8186 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 1, 2004

Church leaders to Washington: 'Keep your promises'

Ecumenical group calls for follow-through on aid to 'world's poorest'

by Jerry L. Van Marter

LOUISVILLE - The Rev. Susan R. Andrews, moderator of the General Assembly of
the Presbyterian Church (USA), joined nine other religious leaders last week
in pressing the White House, the State Department and the Congress to
maintain full funding of the Bush administration's Millennium Challenge
Account (MCA) and global HIV/AIDS initiative.

The March 25 series of meetings on Capitol Hill was organized by Bread for
the World (BFW), a faith-based anti-hunger organization.

"The Bush administration has set new standards for fighting hunger, poverty,
and disease around the world with the MCA and its global HIV/AIDS programs,"
said the Rev. David Beckmann, BFW's president. "We are now seeking the
commitment of our nation's leaders to provide the promised funding to ...
help the world's poorest people."

According to a BFW press release, the group met with National Security
Advisor Condoleezza Rice; Undersecretary of State Alan Larson, interim
director of the MCA; Ambassador John Lange, a deputy U.S. global AIDS
coordinator; and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).

 "We made it clear to Dr. Rice and other officials that ending the cycle of
poverty that creates widespread hunger and diseases like AIDS is a moral
issue for us as people of faith," said Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America. "This is our witness. We expect our nation's
leaders to respond and fulfill the promises they have made."

Andrews said in a telephone interview that it was "a privilege to be part of
such a broad-based group" and was impressed that the representatives of such
a broad spectrum of denominations "managed to agree on what we could agree
on, and to not worry about what we don't agree on - a pretty good model for
the Presbyterian church."

She said Rice, a Presbyterian deacon who "knew who I was and responded to me
as a Presbyterian," reassured the delegation "that the administration is
fully committed to keeping the funding goals it set for this year and for the
program as a whole."

Andrews said she feels that the effort was "worthwhile," and she urged
Presbyterians to pressure their representatives and administration officials
to see that the government follows through on its commitments of
international aid.

President Bush outlined the MCA during the United Nations Development
Conference in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002, pledging a 50 percent increase in
foreign aid over three years - a total of $10 billion by 2006. At Bush's
request, however, Congress appropriated just $1 billion this year. The
president has requested only $2.5 billion for 2005.

In 2003, President Bush signed into law the U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS
Act, which authorizes $15 billion over 5 years, including $3 billion in 2004.
But, as in the case of the MCA, follow-through has been lacking. Funding for
fiscal 2004 was $2.4 billion; the 2005 request is for $2.8 billion.

"Now the crunch is on to find the money, and the president has not been
pushing hard enough to keep his own promises," Beckmann said.

"We have three messages," said Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola, FL, head of
the international policy committee for the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops. "Keep your promises, keep your promises, and keep your promises."

In addition to Andrews, Hanson, Beckmann and Ricard, the delegation included
the Rev. Frederick Borsch of the Episcopal Church USA; the Rev. Robert Edgar,
general secretary of the National Council of Churches; the Rev. Major L.
Jemison, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; the Rev.
Glenn Palmberg, president of the Evangelical Covenant Church; Bishop Lawrence
L. Reddick of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; and Bishop Peter D.
Weaver, president-elect of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

	The full text of a letter the delegation delivered to Congressional

We are writing to ask you to ensure that the Millennium Challenge Account and
the global AIDS initiative receive full funding in fiscal year 2005 without
any cuts to ongoing humanitarian and development assistance.  Without your
help this covenant between our country and our neighbors in the poorest parts
of the world is in jeopardy.

As leaders of nine Christian denominations, we were brought together on March
25, 2004, by Bread for the World in order to meet with Senators Mike DeWine
and Dick Durbin, and with Bush administration officials including Dr.
Condoleezza Rice, Ambassador Randall Tobias and Under Secretary of State Alan

Together we represent over 80 million members of major Protestant and Roman
Catholic religious bodies, and we are committed to using the public voice of
the Church to increase our nation's engagement with poor countries and people
living with HIV/AIDS. We are in agreement that the persistence of abject
hunger, poverty and disease in God's world must be considered a moral outrage
and a threat to our national security.

We were called to our nation's capital because together we recognize a graced
moment -the opportunity before us to reduce hunger, poverty and disease in
poor countries.  We believe that the core concepts embodied in the Millennium
Challenge Account represent an opening to deliver effective aid. We believe
as well that the global AIDS pandemic coupled with rising rates of other
infectious diseases demands a significant expansion of effort by the nations
of the world, including our own.

We ask you to exercise leadership now and work with other conferees to
include the Senate level for International Affairs in the final budget
resolution.  We also ask you to make sure the allocation for the Foreign
Operations appropriations committee is no less than the president's request
of $21.3 billion.

In the days ahead we will pray for you, and hope that you will take our
shared concerns to heart as you make decisions about the priorities of our

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