More than 100 Christian leaders from across the country have signed a letter asking Congress to protect funding for America’s foreign aid programs.
The letter reveals divides among Christians over President Trump, whose plans continue to enjoy the support of many other Christians. The letter comes as Trump is proposing a 28 percent budget reduction for relief programs run by the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Trump’s budget for 2018 also calls for a 35 percent reduction in spending for the Department of the Treasury’s International Programs.
Signers of the letter include Catholics and evangelical pastors, heads of faith organizations and recording artists and authors. Prominent names include Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Both Dolan and Rodriguez spoke at Trump’s inauguration. Other signers include World Vision USA president Rich Stearns, former Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd, Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford and Alec Hill, president emeritus of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Musical artists include Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith and Third Day.
The letter noted that “many countries experience unparalleled suffering and loss of life due to extreme poverty, disease, natural disasters and conflict.”
“Matthew 25 tells us when we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord,” the letter said. “As people of faith, we cannot turn our back on those in desperate need.”
The letter referenced the “strong legacies” of past Republican and Democratic administrations in funding humanitarian aid and said that in today’s world doing so is needed to lower security risks.
“At a time when we’re especially security conscious, the International Affairs Budget is crucial to demonstrating our values to the world, building friendships with other nations, and lowering security risks,” the letter said.
However, Trump’s budget outline preserves funding for many in need. The proposal states that it provides “sufficient resources” for HIV/AIDS treatment and maintains funding for malaria and tuberculosis programs. It also “allows for significant funding of humanitarian assistance, including food, aid, disaster, and refugee program funding.”
The budget proposal is geared toward asking other countries to pay their “fair share” of relief efforts, eliminating waste and duplication of effort, and keeping American interests front and center. The plan “seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, are duplicative, or are not well-managed.”
The proposal calls for reducing the amount the U.S. would contribute to the United Nations and for reducing funding for multilateral development banks, including the World Bank. Even with the proposed decreases, the U.S. would continue to be a top donor to the World Bank, according to the budget outline.
In early February, a group of 100 evangelical leaders signed a letter critical of Trump’s executive order that included restrictions on the nation’s refugee program.