A Christian anti-poverty group launched its letters campaign on Monday to gather thousands of letters from churches across the nation asking Congress to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective in serving the world’s poor and hungry people.
Bread for the World’s 2009 Offering of Letters Campaign already has more than 1,400 churches and denominations throughout the United States signed up to participate.
“Even in an economic crisis, people of faith are continuing to fight global poverty. Just by doing foreign aid better, we can do more for the poorest of the poor - people who survive on less than $1.25 a day,” said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.
“Congress must ensure that global development is as prominent as defense and diplomacy as instruments of U.S. foreign policy,” he said. “This will create a better, safer world.”
Participating churches will ask their congregation during worship service or mass to write letters to Congress in support of legislation that will benefit poor and hungry people in the United States and around the world. The letters will be placed in offering plates instead of money and then be dedicated to God.
Letters will also be collected in Sunday school classrooms and on campuses, where young Christians will pray over the letters before they are mailed to their representatives in Congress.
“You can literally change the world for the cost of a first-class stamp,” Beckmann said. “Letters written 10 years ago to Congress are still having an impact today in terms of more African children able to go to school; more people receiving medicines for HIV/AIDS; and more assistance for low-income families in America to put food on the table.”
Last year, the letter campaign focused on reforming the farm bill, a comprehensive bill dealing with U.S. agriculture and other related topics, which helped to add an additional $10 billion in food and nutrition funding over the next 10 years.
Other campaigns have helped to establish the Millennium Challenge Account, a program aimed at reducing poverty in developing countries while fighting corruption.
“When public sentiment arrives in the halls of Congress in the form of handwritten letters – especially when they come in large numbers – boy, do lawmakers really get interested, and sometimes a little nervous,” said former U.S. Representative Eva Clayton from North Carolina. “The power of constituency and sharing one’s views through a letter cannot be overstated.”
According to the World Food Program (WFP), the number of people in the world defined as “hungry” is now, for the first time, close to a billion.