Faith leaders push Congress for bigger global virus response
NEW YORK (AP) —
A group of faith leaders from all 50 states is urging the Senate to bolster its next pandemic relief bill with a multibillion-dollar investment in the global response to the coronavirus — a call they connect to “the enduring values of our country.”
In an open letter to senators, co-authored by Christian musician Michael W. Smith and shared with The Associated Press ahead of its circulation on Monday, the 51 faith leaders also grounded their support for spending on global pandemic response in the moral codes of their religions.
“In the religious creeds we represent — and in the shared creed of our country — all human beings are created equal and endowed with certain rights,” the letter states. “Even at a time of crisis for our country, this belief in universal human rights and dignity remains an imperative.”
The letter was spearheaded by the ONE Campaign, an international humanitarian advocacy group, with assistance from four faith-based international aid nonprofits: Blood:Water, Bread for the World, Compassion International and World Vision. Clergy from Christian denominations as well as Jewish rabbis have signed on so far.
Tom Hart, ONE’s North America executive director, said religious leaders have played central roles in aiding previous campaigns to combat disease on a global scale, including international responses to the AIDS crisis and malaria.
“The faith community has come to this from a perspective of what’s right to do, as well as a deep well of experience,” Hart said.
An estimated 0.1% of emergency pandemic response spending approved so far by Congress has gone toward international relief, according to the Brookings Institution think tank. The $3 trillion coronavirus response legislation passed in May by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives included no new funding for the global response to the pandemic, which has been blamed for more than 120,000 deaths in the U.S.
Worldwide, the coronavirus is linked to more than 480,000 deaths and 9.4 million confirmed infections, according to a count maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
It’s not yet clear how the GOP-controlled Senate would treat spending on global response in its next pandemic relief bill, which could be released as soon as next month.
In anticipation of that legislation, the letter from faith leaders stressed the importance of a successful worldwide effort.
“There is simply no way to defeat this pandemic until it is effectively confronted in developing nations,” it read, adding that a “robust, multibillion-dollar global” proposal would provide “direct and immediate benefit for the American people, while honoring the belief that all men and women are created in God’s image.”
Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through the Religion News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for this content.