More than 100 Christian leader oppose Trump's cuts to foreign aid
More than 100 Christian leaders are pleading with Congress to reject Donald Trump's cuts to foreign aid after a draft budget showed a 28 per cent spending reduction.
Dozens of faith leaders including two who prayed at Trump's inauguration ceremony have written to House speaker Paul Ryan, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.
'Today, there are 65 million displaced people, the most since World War II, and 795 million people still go to bed hungry every night,' they write urging Congress to block the proposals.
'Matthew 25 tells us when we serve the least of these, we are serving the Lord. As people of faith, we cannot turn our back on those in desperate need.'
Trump justified his cuts to overseas aid by saying it was time for 'America first'. In a statement accompanying the draft budget he said the reduction was because the government needs to 'prioritise the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share'.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters at a White House briefing: '[The cuts] should come as a surprise to no one who watched the campaign. The president said, specifically, hundreds of times, you covered him, "I'm going to spend less money on people overseas and more money on people back home," and that's exactly what we're doing with this budget.'
But Christian leaders are deeply unhappy with the proposals with evangelical leaders joining Catholics and others to oppose the change.
The signatories, who include Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Dr Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, both of whom prayed at Trump's inauguration, write: 'America is blessed with fertile land, abundant natural resources, a strong economy, and faithful citizens who value religious freedom.
'But beyond our borders, many countries experience unparalleled suffering and loss of life due to extreme poverty, disease, natural disasters, and conflict.'
The 106 signatories also include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Dr Ronnie Floyd, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Rev Johnnie Moore, humanitarian and author of the book Defying ISIS and Rich Stearns, president of World Vision USA.
They warn America's national security could be affected by the cuts.
'We are grateful for America's global development and diplomacy programs that have been instrumental in saving lives, safeguarding religious liberties, and keeping America safe and secure,' they write.
'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 around the world.'
Amounting to just one per cent of the total US budget, the faith leaders say International Development funding has 'helped alleviate the suffering of millions' as well as 'freedom and human rights, protecting religious freedom for millions around the world'.
They conclude: 'As followers of Christ, it is our moral responsibility to urge you to support and protect the International Affairs Budget, and avoid disproportionate cuts to these vital programs that ensure that our country continues to be the "shining city upon a hill."'
A White House spokesman defended the budget, saying it 'seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organisations whose missions do not substantially advance US foreign policy interests, are duplicative, or are not well-managed.
'Additional steps will be taken to make the [State] Department and USAID leaner, more efficient, and more effective. These steps to reduce foreign assistance free up funding for critical priorities here at home and put America first.'
The draft budget also vowed to cut US contributions to the UN with a spokesman for UN secretary-general António Guterres warning 'abrupt funding cuts can force the adoption of ad-hoc measures that will undermine the impact of longer-term reform efforts'.
He said: 'The international community is facing enormous global challenges that can only be addressed by a strong and effective multilateral system, of which the United Nations remains the fundamental pillar.'