May 7, 2014

Faith in Congress for All God’s Children

WASHINGTON — CWS is sending representatives to join other partner organizations of the Interfaith Working Group on Foreign Assistance and faith leaders from across the country in meetings with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of important foreign assistance programs that protect all of God’s children.

Recognizing the significant strides made in ending poverty around the world, in large part because of U.S. leadership and American compassion, CWS President and CEO the Rev. John McCullough said, “CWS and other humanitarian organizations and churches are engaged in extensive assistance in relief and development efforts with our neighbors in need around the world.  Even so, the need is of such magnitude that we also need the continued, committed involvement of the U.S. government in the form of foreign aid.”

Representatives from CWS refugee resettlement offices and affiliates scheduled to participate in the meetings are Kara Tofte, Nebraska coordinator for Lutheran Family Service’s International Center of the Heartland in Omaha and Christy Hillebrand, refugee employment specialist for Refugee Services of Texas in Fort Worth.  CWS also has invited state Council of Churches leaders from Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina and Vermont.  Altogether, participating organizations have invited 34 faith leaders from key states and districts across the U.S. to meet with 60 Congressional offices.

The U.S. spends less than one half of one percent of the entire federal budget on international humanitarian and development assistance. The reach of that government funding — and its ability to save millions of lives each year -- is greatly extended by private sector investment and partnerships with scores of NGOs with long histories of expertise in development.  For these reasons, the faith leaders and other advocates are traveling to the nation’s capitol to remind their members of Congress of the remarkable accomplishments to date, and that there still is work to be done.

Congressional leaders now are determining FY15 funding levels for programs like maternal and child nutrition, agricultural development, refugee assistance and resettlement, global health, education, water and sanitation and more. Earlier this year, the Obama Administration released a FY15 budget that included a reduction to global health and Feed the Future, as well as cuts to international disaster assistance and migration and refugee assistance to name a few.

Shortly thereafter, the House Budget Committee called for an 11 percent reduction in the international affairs budget. These proposed cuts would jeopardize crucial funding for life-saving programs and halt or even harm the forward momentum advocates collectively worked so hard to achieve. Millions of lives are at stake, and faith leaders will walk the halls of Congress to help ensure that we continue to protect the most vulnerable everywhere.

“Now is not the time to cut back,” said McCullough.  “Adequate government funding for foreign aid programs is essential.  Without it more and more of our global neighbors in need will slip further and further into poverty.  That is the message our people will take to Capitol Hill.”