Letter to President Bush from Religious Leaders on World AIDS Day

December 1, 2003

President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush,

World AIDS Day represents a day of remembrance. Today we mourn the 3 million lives lost this year to HIV/AIDS. Today we hold in our prayers every person, family, and community that has either been infected or affected by this deadly virus. Today we stand in solidarity with the 42 million people living worldwide with HIV. We know that AIDS need not be a death sentence. We have the medicines that can heal and prolong the lives of people living with HIV. However, the reality in our current world, that 95% of people living with HIV lack access to life-prolonging treatment, is morally unacceptable. An entire generation of children, an estimated thirteen million worldwide, has been orphaned by AIDS and face a bleak future without our immediate support. Every life is worthy of equal dignity and concern. Today we raise a prophetic voice calling for stronger U.S. leadership in the fight against AIDS.

Mr. President, during your State of the Union address you said "Ladies and gentlemen, seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many. We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own country. And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa." Now represents the time to make these powerful words a reality by pledging at least $5.4 billion to fight the linked scourges of global AIDS, TB, and malaria in your 2005 budget request and by supporting complete debt cancellation for impoverished nations.

On this World AIDS Day we gather together representing a diverse array of religious organizations, traditions and denominations to call urgent attention to the political crisis of HIV/AIDS. Today we shed light on the unfulfilled commitments that have been made to the people of Africa and the Caribbean. In this fiscal year, the U.S. has failed to appropriate the desperately needed $3 billion that was authorized by both houses of Congress to fight global HIV/AIDS. In addition the Treasury Department has all but ignored an amendment to the AIDS bill that calls for deeper debt cancellation for countries heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS. AIDS is inextricably linked to the crisis of debt that continues to impoverish nations. Until the chains of debt are broken, African nations will be unable to mount an effective response to the growing AIDS crisis. Addressing AIDS and debt is not a partisan issue, it is a moral imperative.

On this World AIDS Day we challenge the concerns over lack of infrastructure and absorptive capacity that have slowed funding for AIDS. An emergency response to AIDS must recognize that much more can be done with existing infrastructure and that the AIDS crisis provides even more urgency to invest sufficient resources to strengthen health infrastructure.

HIV/AIDS is a disease that is devastating to the human condition worldwide. Every life is precious and indispensable in the eyes of God. While we applaud the Administration’s commitment to fight AIDS in fourteen African and Caribbean nations, we call on our nation to also increase its financial commitment to fighting AIDS in the other 36 nations of sub-Saharan Africa with growing AIDS epidemics as well as in Russia, China, and India, nations that are on the brink of disaster. We also believe that the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria represents the most efficient and effective mechanism to invest U.S. resources in the fight against AIDS.

Our faith traditions call us to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God. This World AIDS Day we have an opportunity to live out this Biblical imperative by providing bold leadership to cancel debt and end the crisis of AIDS.

Signed,

National Religious Leaders:

Angela R. Balfour, Division of Overseas Ministries, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and Wider Church Ministries, the United Church of Christ

Rev. Stan De Boe, OSST, Director, Office of Justice and Peace, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Marie Dennis, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI, Vice Chair, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Jubilee USA Network

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, Director, Washington Office, Presbyterian Church USA

Brenda Girton-Mitchell, Director, Washington Office, National Council of Churches

Brian Hinman, Associate Director & Washington Representative for Public Policy, Education & Advocacy Program, Church World Service

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D., Executive Director, Africa Faith and Justice Network

Marie Lucey, OSF, Associate Director for Social Mission, Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee

Ruth Messinger, President, American Jewish World Service

Rosanne Rustemeyer, SSND, Executive Director, U.S. Catholic Mission Association

Maureen T. Shea, Director of Government Relations, the Episcopal Church USA

Rev. Wallace Smith, representing the Progressive National Baptist Convention

Karen Vagley, Director, Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. Jim Wallis, Convenor, Call to Renewal

James Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, the United Methodist Church

Kathryn Wolford, President, Lutheran World Relief

Local Faith-Based Leaders:

Judy Anderson, St. Mark's Cathedral, Church in the World Oversight Committee, Seattle

Sister Yvette Arnold, RGS, Provincial Leader, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Province of New York

Sister Elizabeth Bagen, Member of the Leadership Council, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Betsy Bell, Jubilee Northwest Coalition, St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

Mary Ann Bentz, Director, Lower Bucks Center for Church and Community, Pennsylvania

Carroll Brownlee, Parishioner, St. Anslem’s Roman Catholic Church

Faye Butler, Coordinator, Pax Christi, Fremont

Sister Marlene Butler, GNSH, President of the Leadership Council, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Jane Carter and Dick Carter, Co-Chairs, St. Mark’s Cathedral, parish partnership with Russian Orthodox parishes of Kulich and Pasqua in St. Petersburg, Seattle

Genevieve Cassani, SSND, Provincial Council, School Sisters of Notre Dame, St. Louis

Kathleen Coll, SSJ, Commission for Justice, Sisters of St. Joseph, Philadelphia

Chris Christiansen, Delegate to Nicaragua, St. Mark's Cathedral, Seattle

Francis Cunningham, OSF, Director, World Mission Ministries, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Timothy P. Dewane, Director, Office of Global Justice & Peace, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Milwaukee Province

Rosemary Everett, SNJM, Sisters of the Holy Names

Father Joseph A. Genito, O.S.A., Augustinian Justice & Peace Office

Samuel Gillin, Peace and Justice Committee, Our Mother of Good Counsel Church

Janet Gottschalk, MMS, Director, Medical Mission Sisters’ Alliance for Justice

Ann Greig, Maryknoll Lay Missioner, El Salvador

Gigi Gruenke, Maryknoll Lay Missioner, El Salvador

Sister Mary Hamilton, SHCJ

Sister Liz Heese, Provincial, School Sisters of St. Francis

Wes Howard-Brooke, Author, Becoming Children of God, Church Before Christianity, Organizer, Patmos-in-the-Woods Retreat Center

Rosemary Huddleston, OP, International Mission Coordinator, World Mission Ministries, Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Rev. Peter Ilgenfritz, University Congregational United Church of Christ, Seattle

Jeffrey James, Lay Leader, Farmingdale United Methodist Church

Susan Ferguson Johnson, Patmos-in-the-Woods Retreat Center

Sister Patricia Kirk, OSB, Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore

Brother Raymond Kozuch, SCJ, Mississippi Mission Executive, Priests of the Sacred Heart

Sister Barbara Kraemer, Provincial, School Sisters of St. Francis

James Lynch, MM, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Sandra Lyons, OSF, Director of Justice, Peace, and Earth Care, Bernadine Franciscan Sisters

Maryknoll Sisters In El Salvador: Mary Virginia Annel, MD, Teresa Alexander, Josephine Lucker, Marie P. Morgan, Mary Mullady, Ngoc Ha Pham, Gloria Ruiz, Cecilia Vandal

Sister Maureen McCarthy, Provincial, School Sisters of St. Francis

Rev. Ralph John Monteiro, O.S.A., HIV/AIDS Ministry to the Homeless

Father James Mott, O.S.A., Chair, Peace and Justice Commission, Province of St. Augustine

Deborah Northern, Maryknoll Lay Missioner, El Salvador

Sister M. Patricia Norton, Maryknoll Sisters

Ann Oestreich, IHM, Congregation Justice Coordinator, Sisters of the Holy Cross

Esther Osborne, St. Mark’s Cathedral, St. Mark’s Jubilee, Seattle

Kathleen S. Paarlberg, Organizer, Sojourners

Dr. Patricia Sisca Pace, Associate, Medical Mission Sisters

Alton B. Pollard, III, Ph.D. Director, Program of Black Church Studies, Emory University Candler School of Theology

Sister Kathleen Purser, Member of the Leadership Council, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Anne Reissner, Director of Study, Center for Mission Research and Study at Maryknoll

Sister Patricia Ridgely, Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Dallas

Phil Reed, M.Afr., Coordinator, Justice and Peace Office, North American Province, Society of Missionaries of Africa

Pat Rumer, Jubilee Oregon

Rev. Canon Petero A.N. Sabune, Vicar for the Community Ministry, St James’ Church in New York

Rabbi David Seidenberg, Berkeley, CA

Irene Senn, Director, Office of Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation, Sisters of the St. Francis of Assisi

Sister Margaret Mary Shields, MSHR Regional Leader, Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary

John Spain, MM, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers

Sister Sheila Stone, Member of the Leadership Council, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Mary Sullivan, OSU, Director of Office of Peace and Justice, Ursuline Sisters, Eastern Province

Mary Turgi, CSC, Director, Holy Cross International Justice Office, South Bend, IN

Sister Deanna Rose Von Bargen, RSCJ, Religious of the Sacred Heart

Jean Walsh, Maryknoll Mission Association of the Faithful

Thomas P. Webb, Pax Christi USA National Council member

Sister Eileen White, Member of the Leadership Council, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

Rev. Canon Frederick B. Williams, Rector, Episcopal Church of the Intercession

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ

James J. Zabransky, SVD, Peace and Justice Coordinator, Divine Word College

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