Christian Leaders Press Obama on Hunger, Poverty Policies

Well-known U.S. Christian leaders met with President Obama Monday to press him to take a stronger stance on poverty and hunger.

Millions of Americans are struggling to find jobs, make payments, and put food on the table amid the economic downturn, highlighted the delegation that included the heads of Church World Service and the National Council of Churches. Although many of the groups present at the meeting are helping to provide meals and assist those impacted by the economic hard times, more needs to be done, they stated.

"As families in the U.S. find their household budgets more and more strained, families in the developing world are hurting too," said the Rev. John McCullough, executive director and CEO of CWS. "Today, we asked for the President's leadership in crafting policies that ensure men, women and children have access to enough food and adequate nutrition for all, particularly children, as well as policies that support sustainable, diversified food production."

The president, according to McCullough, was "warm, gracious, and receptive" to the delegation and the issues they brought up. The CWS head said the group left the meeting pleased with Obama's apparent "desire to work in partnership to find creative ways" to address the problems.

In addition to talking about hunger and poverty, the group also expressed concerns about the relationship between poverty and education, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the plight of Christians in the Middle East, and travel restrictions on national religious organizations that want to work in Cuba.

The current travel restrictions, which only allows religious organizations and their member denominations to travel to Cuba once per quarter, hinders church organizations' mission to support and partner with churches in Cuba.

McCullough said the president "seemed very receptive to deepening the dialogue" on religious travel to Cuba. The Obama administration can lift the travel restrictions on travel without congressional approval, the delegation noted.

Others in the delegation included Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of The Episcopal Church, among others.