Bread, Bono to U.S.: Keep Promise against Poverty

WASHINGTON – Christians, concerned citizens, humanitarian agents and superstar Bono are all putting pressure on the U.S. Senate to fulfill the nation’s promise to fight poverty and HIV/AIDS by increasing foreign aid.

Bread For the World, a Christian lobbying group based in Washington, began an “Offering of Letters campaign” that urges Christians to send individual letters calling on their senators to approve an additional $5 billion poverty-focused development assistance for the 2007 fiscal year.

According to the organization, the increase is necessary to fulfill the United States’ commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, which envisions halving poverty in developing countries by 2015. To keep its promise, the U.S. would have to provide an estimated $25 billion in foreign aid by 2010, which means the foreign aid would have to increase by $5 billion a year.

“This work [to halve poverty] will take more than promises,” Bread For the World stated in a release. “Achieving these goals will require political courage and leadership—political will—reflecting the public's desire for our government to do more to help vulnerable people in the poorest parts of the world.”

Churches are urged to participate in a variety of ways, from sending letters directly to Congress or by dedicating letters to God. Individuals can also say special prayers for hungry people, or help in the cause financially.

Earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee set caps on spending that shaved $2.4 billion off of the $3 billion requested by President Bush for foreign aid in the preliminary 2007 budget.

According to David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, the House move reaffirms the need for Christians to speak up and presents a chance for the Senate to “show real leadership.”

“We are at a historic crossroads to make real change in the developing world, and poll after poll tells us that Americans want to do more to help people in poverty,” Beckmann said, according to Presbyterian News Service. “Even in a time of fiscal constraint, Americans can always afford to keep our promises.”

Meanwhile, rock star Bono on May 17 pledged to maintain pressure on the U.S. to keep foreign aid rolling in for Africa.

"There is jeopardy and we have to be sanguine about that fact," Bono said after visiting a hospital in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Bono said he talked to the House Appropriations Committee members before they shaved the $3 billion request, and that “their eyes misted up at the right place.”

The committee's decision in May is still an early step in the crafting of the U.S. fiscal 2007 bills and a decision will also have to be made by the senate before a final outcome.