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Religious leaders urge Congress to protect foreign aid

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump follow a piper down the steps after they attended the annual Friends of Ireland St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on March 16, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders, including some who spoke at President Trump’s inauguration, are calling on Congress to protect foreign aid that helps the needy across the globe.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal calls for $25.6 billion in funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. That’s a decrease of $10.1 billion, or 28 percent, from the 2017 budget.

“As people of faith, we cannot turn our back on those in desperate need,” more than 100 Christian leaders wrote in a letter to House and Senate officials and posted Thursday (March 16) on the website of World Vision. “As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs.”

“Winners and losers in Trump’s budget.” Graphic courtesy of Reuters

The letter said the current level of  foreign assistance, which makes up 1 percent of the overall budget, has sharply cut the number of people living in extreme poverty and reduced the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola and HIV/AIDS. The letter said the funding has also served to protect religious freedom for millions.

Signatories included New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Both leaders read from scriptural passages during Trump’s swearing-in ceremony.

In his budget proposal released Thursday, Trump said, “It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share.”

“We appreciate that the President wishes to run a fiscally responsible government,” said Rich Stearns, president of World Vision U.S., in a statement. “But cutting such a small part of the federal budget — especially at a time when the world is so unstable and volatile — seems penny wise and pound foolish.”

The letter’s signatories also include National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson, Christian singers Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith and leaders of denominations, seminaries and relief organizations.

Leaders of other religious groups, including American Jewish World Service, have also expressed concern about the budget proposal.

“We call on members of the U.S. Congress to oppose this budget,” said AJWS President and CEO Robert Bank, “and we call on American Jews and all Americans who are guided by the value of upholding the dignity of every person to oppose President Trump’s proposed radical cuts to the budget.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

2 Comments

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  • I am not philosophically opposed to foreign aid and I do believe that in cases where it directly assists the poor and needy in other nations it is right for us to fund that. However, we all know that the money does not get to people like we want to see it get to people. Then of course there is the blatant fact that yes other countries need to pony up money as well. Do not get me started on the UN and that bloated do nothing group. Again we are told that it is between Medicare/SS or helping other nations which is a ridiculous choice when there are so many other things that this country wastes. I wish Trump would call out the Repubs and their usual shenanigans with the budget or they will find themselves out in four years. The burning question really is why is there no money or not enough to fund these essential programs and why must they always effect those who have little to nothing.

  • There is a part of foreign aid that can help those most in need and can stimulate economic development. Working overseas, I saw the positive influence such as food for school lunches and grants to bring clean water and loans for building material for basic housing. These activities should be promoted and in the long run will help the USA with diplomatic and economic ties.

    Almost half of what is called foreign aid is funding due to continued conflicts in the middle east (Egypt, Jordan, Israel, etc,) and elsewhere or is used to prop up questionable governments. This type of spending should be questioned.

    Some of the either or funding questions presented by the politicians is insulting as there are many choices that can be made with the right set of priorities and values.

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