A coalition of 100 Christian faith leaders, looking to raise hunger and poverty as a prominent issue in the 2016 election cycle, is urging all potential 2016 presidential candidates to post videos stating how they plan to alleviate poverty and hunger in the United States and abroad.
The group of faith leaders, which represents a wide array of Christian denominations, churches, universities, seminaries and agencies, was convened by Circle of Protection, a group committed to advocating for programs that help ease the hunger and poverty of the indigent. The coalition asks potential candidates to make three minute videos explaining how each of them will provide "help" and "opportunity" to needy people throughout the world.
Along with the many Christian schools, churches and other localized Christian groups who've had representatives sign onto this movement are national groups such as the National Association for Evangelicals, Sojourners, American Bible Society, Bread for the World, Catholic Theological Union, Jesuit Conference, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, and Catholic Charities USA.
"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?" a statement from the group asks. "We will be calling on people of faith to examine presidential candidates to see if they have a heart for poor and hungry people. We want to know how each candidate proposes to fulfill the mandate to those who govern to 'give deliverance to the needy,' (Psalm 72)."
As over 45 million Americans and 14 million children are living in poverty in the U.S., Jim Wallis, CEO and founder of Sojourners, explained that the Bible states that God judges on how the less fortunate people in society are treated.
"Throughout the Scripture, we're told that a society will be judged by how they treat "the least" among them. Our political leaders also must be assessed through the measure of their commitment to the poor and most vulnerable," Wallis said in the release. "Though political advisors are telling their candidates that they shouldn't talk about poverty, as people of faith we must and will disagree. That is why, as each presidential candidate declares, the faith community will hold them accountable by asking them all — Republicans and Democrats alike — to answer the question: 'How will you treat those Jesus has called 'the least of these?' How will you address and find real solutions to poverty?'"
Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, a Christian organization that seeks to end hunger, said that America has done a poor job recently of fulfilling God's call to provide for the needy.
"There is a broad consensus among faith leaders that our country has been culpably neglectful of poverty, especially in our own country," Beckmann said in the release.
Galen Carey, vice president for government relations at the National Association for Evangelicals, warned the candidates that "silence on poverty is inexcusable."
"There are different ways to address the needs of poor and vulnerable people — some more effective than others," Carey explained. "Christians who believe government leaders are called to share God's concern for the poor and vulnerable want to know how presidential candidates would approach this essential responsibility."
In the midst of the 2012 election, both President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney answered the group's call and submitted videos to the Circle of Protection on how they would work to help improve the impoverished conditions in America
"My faith teaches me that poverty is a moral issue. The Bible calls on us to be our brother's keeper, our sister's keeper. And I believe as a public servant, I must do that part to answer that call," Obama said. "That's why my office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has expanded its work with groups around the country to help those in need. That's why last year, in the midst of a heated budget debate in Washington, I promised to protect vital assistance for the least of these. I have kept that promise."