Advocacy: preserving vital lifelines
Throughout 2011 Congressional politics posed a tremendous threat to domestic poverty programs and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance. At various times during the year the majority leadership in the House of Representatives attempted to cut international aid by 20 to 30 percent.
By Marty Shupack, CWS Director of Advocacy
Throughout 2011 Congressional politics posed a tremendous threat to domestic poverty programs and humanitarian and poverty-focused international assistance. At various times during the year the majority leadership in the House of Representatives attempted to cut international aid by 20 to 30 percent. One proposed cut in overseas food aid would have ended U.S. food supplies to approximately 12 million desperately hungry disaster victims and refugees.
Church World Service responded by urging members of Congress to preserve these vital lifelines for people in poverty in the U.S. and around the world. We also invited CWS supporters and CROP Hunger Walk participants throughout the country to contact their members of Congress in support of international humanitarian assistance.
Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS Executive Director and CEO, and Bishop Johncy Itty, then chair of the CWS board of directors, joined with other senior religious leaders in prayer vigils, meetings with key members of Congress and press conferences.
In addition Church World Service and several of its member communions, along with other faith-based organizations, formed the interfaith Faithful Budget Campaign. This was an unprecedented Christian, Jewish and Muslim coalition that lifted up a united faith voice for preserving compassionate assistance for vulnerable and impoverished children, women and men in the United States and abroad.
The reality is that less than 1 percent of U.S. federal spending goes to aid poor and hungry people in low-income countries. Instead of cutting vital help for families in need, CWS advocated that efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit focus on job creation programs, revenue increases and the reduction of unnecessary military spending. A perceived need to lower the deficit was used by some members of Congress to justify their attempt to cut help to the poor, while they simultaneously tried to lower taxes on the very wealthy and increase military spending.
As a result of the work of the faith community and other concerned people of conscience, most international aid programs were funded at or slightly above current levels and most US domestic poverty programs were preserved from significant cuts. This was a major success and perhaps a genuine miracle, given the hardened ideological stands of some in Congress.
When people of faith come together to pray for and “speak out...for the rights of all the destitute and...defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (Prov. 31), they can have a significant impact, preserve human dignity and save lives.
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, email@example.com
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