Nearly 100 national Christian leaders released Feb. 25 a letter  to US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Congress "affirming the government's responsibility concerning poor people."

The letter further stated, "Assuring government's obligation to advance the common good, ensure fairness, and defend the most vulnerable is good religion and good politics."

The letter was sent on behalf of the ecumenical "Circle of Protection" coalition.

"We appreciate that President Obama has kept his promise to the Circle of Protection to protect the poor, and that Republicans and Democrats agreed to shield many core programs benefiting people living in or near poverty from the sequestration cuts," wrote the leaders. "The focus of our nation's budget negotiations should not be about which politicians win or lose, but about whether our budget decisions reflect our values. We will ask our churches to pray as you continue to work together on the budget."

Signers of the letter included representatives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), National Association of Evangelicals, Bread for the World, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Reformed Church, the Wesleyan Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church and several Orthodox Churches.

"Help us reduce hunger and poverty by expanding opportunity and justice, promoting economic growth and good paying jobs, stabilizing family life, and protecting the well-being of children," they wrote. "We celebrate the progress the world is making against hunger, poverty, and disease, and we are encouraged by the possibility of ending extreme hunger and poverty globally."

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, signed the letter. The bishops chair the USCCB Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development, International Justice and Peace and Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, respectively.

Other Catholic signers included Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services; Father Lary Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Sister Carol Keehan, president of the Catholic Health Association; and James F. Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.

More information is available online: . .