The most tragic victims of our government’s failure to negotiate a way out of the current “sequestration” are the poor and vulnerable around the world. At a time when international humanitarian aid is already stretched thin by wars, famine, and natural disasters, mandated across-the-board cuts of 5.3 percent out of all federal departments threatens to jeopardize the work of every non-governmental organization (NGO) serving millions of refugees, orphans, and families who depend on us for survival.
In response to these impending cuts, Samuel A. Worthington, CEO of InterAction (of which Bethany is a member) implored Congress and the administration to keep their hands off foreign humanitarian aid. “As the administration continues to negotiate the continuing resolution and sequestration with Congress, it is critical that humanitarian accounts are not only protected but increased,” Worthington noted. “Without additional funding, U.S. agencies that oversee humanitarian response may be put in the impossible position of having to choose between saving lives in one country over another,” Worthington warned.
The majority of U.S. foreign humanitarian aid is administered through non-governmental organizations, many of whom are faith-based. These NGOs are on the front lines of unbelievable misery in countries where mere survival is often a daily struggle—countries like those bordering Syria where 770,000 people have fled as refugees. It is estimated that by June that number will climb to more than one million. Faith-based NGOs are providing everything from food vouchers, wells in drought-stricken regions, to microenterprise initiatives aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty.
No one denies that our government needs to do a better job at what all of us have to do every month: balance our checkbooks. With foreign aid accounting for less than 1 percent of the federal budget , cutting these precious resources will hardly fix our deficit even as it makes life worse for so many. According to InterAction, a mandated cut of 5.3 percent to foreign aid could result in 39,200 more AIDS-related deaths and 77,200 more children becoming orphans. More than 2 million fewer people will have access to food aid.
This is not a political issue but one that goes to the core of what we believe as Christians. We are called to look after “the least of these” by our Savior who came to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” When we offer a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus— a simple shelter to a refugee, a loving home to an orphan, nutrition in a famine, medicine for the sick—we do it because we believe all human life is important to God and deserves our best efforts to protect it.
I, of course, am for Washington balancing the budget, but not on the backs of the world’s poor and oppressed.