Washington, D.C., January 15, 2015 – As President Obama prepares to present his plan for his final two years in office in the annual State of the Union address next week, a group of Christian leaders is already looking ahead to what the next president may do to address hunger and poverty.
The group of 100 Christian leaders around the country is challenging the presidential candidates to appear on camera in a video stating how they propose to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in the United States and abroad.
"We are praying for a president who will make ending hunger and poverty a top priority of his or her administration. Are you that leader?" a statement from the group asks. The full statement is available at www.circleofprotection.us.
The leaders, convened by the Circle of Protection, represent a diverse array of Christian denominations, churches, colleges, and agencies across the country. They will disseminate the videos throughout their networks and memberships in order to raise hunger and poverty as an election issue.
"We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to "give deliverance to the needy" (Psalm 72), the leaders said in their statement released today.
Bishop Richard Pates, a board member of Bread for the World, stated: “Pope Francis has drawn attention to the plight of the poor going unnoticed in a culture focused on the individual and materialism. The Circle of Protection brings to the forefront in the United States the respect and assistance which every person is deserving of, especially so in history’s wealthiest country.”
According to the latest U.S. Census data, 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger, while 45 million live in poverty. One in five children lives in poverty. That is 15 million children, 5 million of them under age 6.
The challenge to candidates was issued today during a press conference organized by the Circle of Protection. Speakers included Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Galen Carey, vice president of government relations for the National Association of Evangelicals; Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative; Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director of Christian Churches Together; Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; and Rev. Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners.
The Circle of Protection is a coalition composed of more than 65 heads of denominations, relief and development agencies, and other Christian organizations. www.circleofprotection.us
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World:
"There is broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country. 100 Christian leaders of all stripes are urging all the candidates to explain, on camera, what they would do to provide help and opportunity to hungry and poor people in our country and around the world.”
Galen Carey, vice president for government relations, National Association of Evangelicals:
“There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people—some more effective than others. Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility. Silence on poverty is inexcusable.”
Rev. Sèkinah Hamlin, director of the Ecumenical Poverty Initiative:
“We are looking for those who aspire to become president of the United States to seize this moment and take decisive leadership in ways that address the complex yet solvable evil of poverty, particularly as poverty affects nearly one in every five children in America and one in every three children of color.”
Rev. Carlos Malavè, executive director, Christian Churches Together in the USA:
“Christian leaders from all major Christian traditions have come to have a shared sense that the extent of poverty in this country is unnecessary and shameful. We expect that our president, regardless of which political party he or she represents, place hunger and poverty at the top of his or her priorities."
Fr. Larry Snyder, president Catholic Charities USA:
“For the 45 million Americans living in poverty, the state of our union leaves them struggling to get by. Helping them achieve their full potential should not be a partisan issue - it's time for candidates from both sides of the aisle to have a meaningful conversation about advancing the common good," said Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.”
Jim Wallis, founder and CEO, Sojourners:
“The State of the Union is still not good for poor and vulnerable people in America. Should we also not consider God's point of view as we look toward this important speech? Throughout the Scripture, we're told that a society will be judged by how they treat "the least" among them. Our political leaders also must be assessed through the measure of their commitment to the poor and most vulnerable. Though political advisors are telling their candidates that they shouldn't talk about poverty, as people of faith we must and will disagree. That is why, as each presidential candidate declares, the faith community will hold them accountable by asking them all-Republicans and Democrats alike--to tell answer the question "how will you treat those Jesus has called 'the least of these'"? How will you address and find real solutions to poverty?”