Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders are urging presidential candidates to make poverty a priority in their upcoming campaigns. The encouragement comes on the heels of an announcement from Circle of Protection, that it is releasing several videos from candidates addressing the issue.
“Our congregations come from communities who know the cost of poverty and the loss of incredible human potential because our government does not make ending poverty a priority,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA). “Candidates seeking the highest office in our country should focus discussion on how to end poverty and the ever widening disparities that polarize society.”
Circle of Protection is a coalition of diverse Christian leaders who work together to battle hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Each presidential candidate was sent a letter asking him or her to produce a video on how they would propose helping those living below the poverty line 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?”
The videos are being disseminated among the Christian leaders’ networks and members to raise hunger and poverty as election issues and can be seen at www.circleofprotection.us and on Circle’s YouTube channel: www.bread.org/povertyvideos.
“We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people,” the letter states. “We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to ‘give deliverance to the needy’ (Psalm 72).”
In a press release, Circle of Protection said videos were made by Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders. The other declared candidates were contacted but have not yet provided videos.
"I believe that it is imperative for each candidate vying for the Office of President of the United States to articulate a commitment and vision to end poverty and hunger in our country and across the globe,” said the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness. “My faith is grounded in the belief that our Creator has provided more than we need to remedy the problem of hunger and poverty. The next president of the United States must possess a vision to effectively use these God given provisions to eradicate poverty and hunger so that all children and adults may have an opportunity to live with a sense of security and purpose."
PC(USA) leaders say congregations are not surprised to hear that most of the people who run out of food are children in families where one or both parents are working minimum wage jobs or are elderly.
“Church members know many of them by name at weekly meals or after school programs. Many candidates do not know anyone who is poor,” said Ruth Farrell, coordinator for the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “We can invite them to our schools’ breakfast or after-school programs or to weekly meals so they can put faces and names to poverty. I honestly believe if candidates saw what we see, they would make ending poverty a priority.”
According to U.S. Census data, 49 million Americans are at risk of hunger while 45 million live in poverty. One in five children currently lives in poverty, totaling 15 million children.