WASHINGTON – More than 25 influential faith leaders sent a letter Friday encouraging the Trump administration to continue funding humanitarian foreign assistance programs they say will save lives, help strengthen communities and ultimately protect our freedoms at home.
Citing the biblical principle in Luke where Jesus said, "from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded," the letter addressed to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton states:
"Our nation has been richly blessed, and we have the privilege and obligation to share some of those blessings with those in need around the world. We do this through our private missionary, development, and humanitarian programs. But our government also has an indispensable role to play in diplomacy and in poverty-focused assistance programs."
The International Affairs Budget, which makes up less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget, is roughly $60 billion a year and covers many programs at the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Some of the more notable programs have been the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and projects that help with assistance for natural disasters, displaced religious minorities in Iraq, security for Israel, fighting global health issues and helping in food and famine crises.
"For 1 percent of the federal budget, development and humanitarian programs are cost-effective and ensure America remains a beacon of hope for those in need around the world," the letter states. "We pray that as you lead our generous people you will find the way to meet our nation's responsibility to those less fortunate."
Faith-based groups are often on the front lines of these humanitarian emergencies. The White House is taking a hard look at aid to other countries and is in the midst of reviewing dollars spent on foreign assistance programs. These leaders want to send a friendly message to the administration that such programs are crucial.
"As the administration continues to seek input and guidance for the Foreign Assistance Review, we ask that you protect America's development, diplomatic, and humanitarian programs," they wrote. "These vital resources and programs save lives, cure diseases, protect our freedoms, and help millions around the world lift themselves and their families out of poverty and into a brighter, more secure future."
In the letter, faith leaders lay out how these types of long-term development programs help people around the world living in extreme poverty, reduce infant mortality rates, promote human rights, and help protect those who are persecuted in their quest for religious freedom.
"These programs help make the United States a great nation, and they also contribute to our security and continued prosperity," says the letter.
Among the prominent faith leaders who signed onto the letter are the following:
• Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals;
• Dr. Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention;
• Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission;
• Star Parker, president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education;
• Pastor Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council;
• Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel.