National Lutheran News

Faith leaders ask administration to make poor people a spending priority

ELCA presiding bishop Mark Hanson joined a dozen other leaders in making the request

The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined a dozen other religious leaders, representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, in a December 1 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. They urged the Bush administration to increase funding for international development assistance to combat global poverty and to discuss the importance of the current round of trade negotiations on all people living in poverty.

Other Christian leaders at the meeting represented the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, The United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic), the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Roman Catholic Church.

The leaders called on the administration to fulfill its promise to substantially increase U.S. assistance to developing countries as part of the Millennium Development Goals and other poverty-focused programs. They asked for an additional $5 billion for suchassistance in fiscal year 2007.

ELCA presiding bishop Mark Hanson said, “It is now time for the administration to work with Congress to ensure that it appropriates the funds necessary to meet the president’s promise.”

Currently, the United States spends less than 0.5% of its federal budget on reducing global poverty.

Hanson and several other Christian leaders met in March 2004 with Rice and other members of the Bush administration in an effort to secure funding for poverty-focused development assistance in fiscal year 2006.

“Last year’s meeting involved only Christian religious leaders, but this year we came together as leaders of many faiths to speak with one voice,” Hanson said. “There is an emerging, powerful convergence developing among people of faith over the issue of global poverty. Our faith traditions are now uniting as one in a grass-roots effort to bring pressure on the world leaders to end global poverty.

“This is a spiritual issue,” Hanson continued. “Our sacred texts call us as people of faith to acts of love, mercy and justice. This is also a moral issue. It is about how we live responsibly in the world, particularly as people with wealth in the face of abject poverty.”

People living in poverty will be affected by the results of the upcoming Doha Development Round of trade negotiations, he said.

Hanson added, “As people of faith, we are paying attention to issues of trade, particularly as they relate to the impact on those who live in poverty.”