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Julian Lazalde is a former Project Coordinator for Catholic Relief Services.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Yes, we are our brother’s keeper

In the past two weeks a single issue has generated more emails and phone calls to elected officials than any other in the history of the Catholics Confront Global Poverty campaign – a joint advocacy initiative of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  What is the issue that has generated such an enthusiastic response from Catholics across the country?  Poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance.

What is poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance?  It is the International Disaster Assistance account, which provides lifesaving services to people in dire need after disasters such as the recent floods in Central America or the drought in East Africa.  It is the Emergency Refugee and Migration account, which is helping people who fled the famine in Somalia to survive.  And much more.

It is hard to believe that such life saving work is funded with 0.6% of our federal budget, and not the 25% or 10% as is typically perceived.  It is even harder to believe that some in Congress have advocated for significant cuts to these accounts.

Instead of viewing the current economic situation as a reason to drastically cut foreign assistance to the poorest people in the poorest places on earth, we should view it as an opportunity to reassess our responsibility to others as the wealthiest country on earth.  In a letter sent to all 100 US Senators on November 2nd Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany and Ken Hackett, President of CRS reminded our elected officials, “The budget is a moral document that should give priority to those that are poor and vulnerable at home and abroad”.

Our Catholic tradition calls us to care for our sisters and brothers who are hungry, thirsty, and seeking refuge from war and famine.  The Catholic Social Teaching principles of sacredness and dignity of the human person, the common good, option for the poor and solidarity come immediately to mind when reflecting on why this tiny sliver of our federal budget is of such vital importance.

By now I hope you are asking yourself, “What can I do to stand with my sisters and brothers overseas?”  The USCCB and CRS urge you to email your Senators or call 1.866.596.7030 to express support for maintaining the levels of life-saving poverty-focused international assistance for FY 2012.

As we prepare to give thanks this week for the many blessings we have received, let’s continue to declare as Catholics that it is morally unacceptable for our nation to balance its budget on the backs of poor people at home and abroad.

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