U.S. Bishop Urges Bush to Fulfill Promises Made to Africa

Conference President Warns of Congressional Obstacles

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WASHINGTON, D.C., AUG. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The U.S. bishops’ conference president warned George W. Bush about the possibility that Congress might betray the promises made by the American head of state to Africa during his recent trip there.

In a letter dated Aug. 19, Bishop Wilton Gregory reminded President Bush that the trip he made to Africa in July «gave hope to a continent with much suffering and much promise, and brought the plight of millions of Africans to the attention of the American public.»

«Unfortunately, I fear that the commitment reflected in your trip to Africa could be lost if the Congress fails to provide adequate funding for your HIV/AIDS initiative, development and humanitarian aid, or if the United States fails to take the necessary actions for conflict resolution,» the bishop warned.

«We urge you and your administration to do everything you can to fulfill the commitments made to combat disease and poverty and to help end bitter and bloody conflicts in the region,» Bishop Gregory wrote.

«As one of the principal institutions serving needy people in Africa, including those suffering from HIV/AIDS, we continue to advocate with Congress to fully fund morally appropriate programs to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,» he continued.

«We also support full funding of Millennium Challenge Account activities to help alleviate extreme poverty and promote human life and dignity in the world’s poorest countries, especially in Africa. However, the funding levels currently contained in Foreign Operations Appropriations bills fall well short of the need,» he added.

«Your leadership is needed now to ensure that these initiatives succeed,» Bishop Gregory said. «Therefore, we respectfully request that you press now for congressional action to appropriate the $3 billion which has been authorized for the HIV/AIDS initiative, and the $1.3 billion which you requested for the MCA initiative.»

«We also request that this funding not be at the expense of crucial development assistance for poor countries, particularly those that may not qualify for the MCA,» the prelate said.

On behalf of the U.S. episcopate, Bishop Gregory said: «We welcome your promise to help end war and conflict throughout Africa, particularly in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast and Liberia.»

He added: «We welcome the significant role that the United States has played thus far in preventing a catastrophic famine in the Horn of Africa. However, millions of people in Ethiopia and Eritrea are surviving solely on food assistance and are in desperate need of immediate aid for medical care and medium- to long-term development assistance to help avert future famines.»

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