For the past four weeks, faith leaders, members of Congress, and more than 36,000 Americans have been fasting. Some are going a day without food while others have not eaten since the fast began on March 28. Through their bold actions they are calling attention to the growing numbers of people in our nation who go hungry every day. And they are advocating for political leaders to do the right thing and spare millions of vulnerable Americans from deep budget cuts that threaten their well-being and lives.
The situation is alarming: In the last five years, the number of people signing up for governmental food assistance has increased by 66 percent. And last month food prices grew faster than at any time since 1974. Our country is now experiencing the highest rate of poverty since 1960—more than 45 million Americans live in poverty, including 15 million children.
As battles in Washington intensify over the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget, faith leaders from across the theological spectrum are speaking with a prophetic voice, charging political leaders to be just and fair. The budget is a moral document, they say, reflecting our nation’s priorities and values. Faith leaders speak from a deeply grounded moral concern—that we are all called, even mandated, to care for our neighbor—but they also speak from experience.
Congregations are on the front lines, witnessing first-hand the deprivation and suffering in their communities. Faith-based organizations deliver much-needed services, often through partnerships with the government. The recent budget for 2012 proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) would shred such services, especially for the elderly, the young, and the poor.
Analysts have shown that two-thirds of the Ryan budget cuts come from programs supporting low-income Americans. President Barack Obama’s proposed budget also makes difficult cuts, even to some crucial poverty-assistance programs. But contrary to Ryan’s it does maintain a commitment to a basic social safety net for our nation.
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