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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Faith Leaders Call For US International Affairs Funding

Leaders from diverse American faith-based organizations are joining together to urge President Bush and congressional leaders to make greater investments in the United States International Affairs budget, which funds America's global humanitarian, development and diplomatic programs. In an open letter to policymakers, the faith leaders delivered a strong, unified message in support of U.S. global development and diplomacy efforts.

"While all of our organizations may not share the same beliefs, we do share an uncompromising commitment to America's investment in serving the poor and victims of injustice in the U.S. and throughout the world," says Richard Stearns, president of World Vision U.S. "We urge President Bush and members of Congress to fully fund the current U.S. International Affairs Budget to demonstrate in a tangible way our nation's investment as well."

Signers include the Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, Advocates International, Africa Faith and Justice Network, American Friends Service Committee, American Jewish Committee, Blessings International, B'nai B'rith International, Bread for the World, Catholic Relief Services, Center of Concern, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, Church World Service, Episcopal Relief and Development, Evangelical Covenant Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Five Talents International, Food for the Hungry International, Institute for Global Engagement, Jubilee USA Network, Lutheran World Relief, Sojourners/Call to Renewal, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, United Methodist Church, World Hope International, World Relief and World Vision.

Americans have expressed -- loudly and clearly -- that they want policymakers to work to emphasize diplomacy and increase support for America's civilian international programs according to a recently released study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes.

Approximately two-thirds of survey respondents believe the U.S. government should emphasize more diplomatic methods. A large number also favor spending more on humanitarian assistance and initiatives. Additionally, every year, Americans of faith reach into their own pockets to donate millions of dollars to help the poor and vulnerable across the globe.

"The faith-based community believes strongly that U.S. foreign assistance programs embody Americans' commitment to provide hope and opportunity to those in need throughout the world. The programs supported by the U.S. international affairs budget symbolize our values as a country and our dedication to fighting global poverty, disease, and hunger," says Ken Hackett, President of Catholic Relief Services. "These global initiatives also provide America with the tools and opportunities to build much needed friendships and bridge the gaps between cultures."
Earlier this year, President Bush requested $35.1 billion for the U.S. International Affairs Budget, including funding for education, refugees, the State Department, as well as to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, more than $2 billion requested for these programs, which includes funding critical to fighting global poverty, is currently in jeopardy.

"As faith leaders we are called to create a just world -- to support programs that address the root causes of hunger and poverty," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "So, we call on our political leaders to work across party lines end engage the rest of the world in a new way. Now is the time to increase poverty-focused development assistance, not shortchange resources hungry and poor people need to better their lives and overcome extreme poverty."

Recognizing the U.S. International Affairs Budget as "a statement of America's values," the faith leaders asked the president and Congress to overcome partisan differences and work together during the remaining weeks of the 109th Congress in order to ensure adequate funding for America's invaluable development and diplomatic programs in 2007. Additionally, the leaders urged the president to continue his commitment to foreign assistance and U.S. global engagement as the administration begins preparing the FY 2008 U.S. federal budget.

For a little more than 1 percent of the total U.S. federal budget, the International Affairs Budget funds critical programs that ensure our national security, build economic prosperity and strengthen our humanitarian values. America's international programs ensure the well-being of millions of children and families by supporting global health initiatives, alleviating poverty around the world, improving basic education, strengthening democratic institutions and fostering cultural understanding.


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