US churches lobby for major international aid commitment

By agency reporter
May 29, 2009

Urging support for decent funding for international aid programmes, 59 of the 65 synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have signed a letter calling on members of the US Congress to act.

They want members of Congress to co-sponsor the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act of 2009 (HR 2139). The bipartisan bill is intended to refocus the US government’s global development policies and programmes to make them more effective in addressing poverty and security.

In the letter distributed to the 465-member House of Representatives last week, the bishops said “comprehensive reform is critical in order to more effectively meet the growing needs of those living in extreme poverty while ensuring global security.”

The ELCA is one of a range of faith groups calling on millions of their constituents to urge their U.S. representatives to co-sponsor the bill. Nearly 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations are working together to issue statements on US international assistance reform.

“Lutheran leaders understand the importance of US foreign [sic] aid because we have seen firsthand how it affects our brothers and sisters in partner churches throughout the world,” said the Rev Peter Rogness, bishop, ELCA St. Paul (Minnesota) Area Synod, and one of the signatories.

“Many individuals and communities that we work with have experienced the lifesaving reality of US assistance,” he said.

Every Evangelical Lutheran Church synod in America has an established relationship with at least one global church partner.

Kimberly C. Stietz, director for international public policy, ELCA Washington Office, said: “The Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act is a critical first step toward comprehensive reform of US foreign aid. Comprehensive reform is necessary to ensure sustainability and the building of local capacities necessary to address the root causes of hunger and poverty.”

The bishops stated that they were “acutely aware” of the severe consequences global partners face during the economic downturn. “A global development strategy will help ensure taxpayer dollars are used effectively by eliminating duplication, increasing coordination among US government agencies implementing foreign aid and requiring a more robust system of monitoring and evaluation,” the bishops wrote.

The bill would direct President Barack Obama to develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy for global development, establish new guidelines for monitoring and evaluating US international assistance and increase its transparency.

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