The reflection this week is offered by Katie Conway, Immigration & Refugee Policy Analyst, and Sarah Dreier, Legislative Representative for International Policy.
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.
In the United States, we Episcopalians often experience the spirituality of austerity by relinquishing self-indulgent habits through the Lenten season. While these luxuries often seem impossible to live without, they are small and voluntary sacrifices, in stark contrast to the forced sacrifices of millions of individuals currently displaced by draught, famine and conflict. These men, women and children, however, stand to face even greater hardship if we do not act to protect funding for the life saving programs they depend on to access to food, clean water and secure shelter.
In the Horn of Africa 13 million people are currently living in food crisis, still suffering from the effects of last year’s drought. The worst drought in six decades, combined with rising food prices and levels of conflict, has led an estimated one million Somali refugees to leave their homes for camps in neighboring countries and displaced 1.5 million internally.
Meanwhile, the plight of famine has percolated west putting 13.4 million people in West Africa’s Sahel region at risk. Ten million are now considered food insecure, with an additional one million children at risk of severe malnutrition. Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger are all experiencing dangerously high malnutrition levels while in Mali alone, conflict and food shortages have displaced 140,000 people.
Sandwiched between the crises to their east and west, Sudan and South Sudan suffer while combating their own humanitarian crises. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by violence in South Kordofan, an area vulnerable to Sudan’s Armed Forces’ aerial bombing, ground attacks, sexual violence, denial of humanitarian assistance and other tactics which activists have dubbed “weapons of mass starvation.”
Yet in the midst of these dire and enduring crises, the President’s fiscal year 2013 budget request proposes cuts to essential poverty-focused programs that provide refugees and displaced people with access to food, shelter, and water. Rather than supporting programs that provide the most basic of protections to vulnerable populations, the President’s budget proposes a decrease of nearly a 13.3% cut ($250 million) to the Migration and Refugee Assistance, the program that protects and supports refugees and internally displaced people; a 25.7% cut ($4.5 million) cut to the Vulnerable Children program that services orphans and displaced children; and a 5.3% ($5 million) cut to Nutrition Programs
CLICK HERE to tell your senators and representative to maintain funding for refugee assistance, the protection of vulnerable children and other poverty-focused programs that provide essential food, water, and support to the millions around the world who were forced to make incomprehensible sacrifices.