The Common Good

Latin American Churches Criticize U.S. Budget Debate, Support 'Circle of Protection'

More than 140 prominent Protestant leaders from 12 Latin American countries have signed an "open letter to the Christian churches of the United States," asking American Christians to stand with "the most vulnerable members of US society" who would be affected by proposed budget cuts to the social safety net.

Citing the Circle of Protection as a positive Christian witness, the signers also expressed their dismay. "We view with deep concern recent decisions in the United States that will add to the suffering of the most vulnerable members of US society," the letter read. It was signed by a broad array of Latin American religious communities, including leaders of the Latin American Council of Churches, the United Bible Society of Latin America, evangelical councils and alliances in Peru, Ecuador, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay, the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches (CONELA), the Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL), Micah Network, Indigenous Association of Peruvian Amazonia, and the Latin American Biblical University in Costa Rica.

Noting the long-standing generosity of the American people and the assistance programs to the poor that operate through churches across Latin America, the letter said, "It is therefore inconceivable to us that the wealthy make no effort to take responsibility for the debt generated by the country as a whole. Paying more taxes will not bankrupt them. Cutting social benefits jeopardizes the lives of the retired, the sick and others who are in need. Is this not brutally unjust?"

With a strong rebuke of the "heated political debates that have raged in Washington" that excluded the most vulnerable millions, the church leaders reminded that "Those who govern should know that the decisions made in your country have consequences for the economies of other nations around the world. In the medium and long term, they will affect the lives of millions of people in the countries of the Global South. It seems to us immoral that politicians, with some exceptions, embrace only the interests of the wealthy, preferring to cut social assistance to those in greatest need."

The signers said the crisis is not only economic but moral. They stand in solidarity with American clergy and lay leaders who have joined the Circle of Protection seeking to protect social programs that aid the elderly, unemployed, sick, and poor.

"Our prayers are with you, dear brothers and sisters in the faith," the letter concludes. "Do not falter in your efforts, although these may be lonely times for people whose prophetic voice the politicians seem not to want to hear. God is watching the politicians and will not stop telling them: Give justice to the poor (Psalm 82:3)!"

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, blogs at www.rosemarieberger.com. She's the author of Who Killed Donte Manning? The Story of an American Neighborhood available at store.sojo.net.

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