JRF had been a partner with Mazon in the area of hunger and poverty relief for over two decades. As part of our affiliation with Mazon, we were invited to participate in a major international convocation and lobbying effort in Washington in June 2005. Out of that event a Religious coalition was formed that has continued to communicate through the auspices of Bread for the World and Mazon about national and international hunger and poverty concerns.
On December 1st, 2005, we were invited with a select group of national religious leaders to meet with Secretary Condoleezza. Rice Rabbi Fred Dobb of JRF congregation Adat Shalom in Bethesda, Maryland, represented the JRF. Secretary Rice learned that Bread for the World, Mazon and other groups will be pushing for a $5 billion increase in poverty-focused development assistance next year.
Read Bread for the World's report of the meeting...
In total, 13 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders met with Secretary Rice on Thursday afternoon. After the meeting the religious leaders continued to exhort them before the press to push strongly for the issues.
The leaders were impressed by the scope of changes that the president had been putting forward on agriculture reform here in the United States to eliminate subsidies that penalize rural farmers and those in developing countries. Taking that as an example, some also looked into mobilizing people to action within their own spheres of influence.
The administration has put a strong proposal on the table in the Doha negotiations, said the Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World. We hope President Bush and other world leaders will go the extra mile to achieve a breakthrough this month.
On the issue of aid, McCarrick spoke about the benefits of aid and debt relief and how they improved the prospects for fairer trade.
Poor countries need the support of more generous foreign aid and broader debt relief so that they can invest in education and health care for their people and in building their capacity for trade, he said.
Dr. H. Eric Shockman, President of MAZON – a Jewish Response to Hunger – pointed out several shared traits among all the leaders gathered including a commitment to global justice, the recognition that what were once obscure issues such as debt and trade relief were starting to resonate in congregations of different faiths. He urged that those people of faith take their scriptures and used them for social action.
Without social action ... we are nothing. We are not living our faith, he said. I think that ultimately brings us back in a united common effort where my colleague quotes Luke and I quote Isaiah and we’ll come to the same conclusion.
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Secretary General for the Islamic Society of North America said the grouping of religious leaders was a historical gathering.
We are instrumental in mobilizing the world’s resources, our resources to fight this big challenge. The challenge of poverty. The challenge of hunger. And the challenge of deprivation.
Over the next months, there will be occasions when your voice may be needed to your representatives in Congress or to the Bush administration. We will be in touch with you as these opportunities come up. What you do to involve your members in Mazon's lobbying to increase poverty-focused development assistance is especially important.