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OPW advocates for United States to restore humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees

Action by President Biden would provide vital services and cast US as a ‘force for positive change’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

A boy in a Palestinian camp. (Photo by Rick Jones)

LOUISVILLE — The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is encouraging the American people to rally behind Palestinian refugees by advocating for the restoration of U.S. funding to a vital humanitarian organization.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) and Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) are pushing for the restoration of aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). The agency helps provide vital services, such as health care, education and emergency food assistance, to Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed support for restoration of the funding, which was cut by his predecessor, Donald Trump. But it’s time to move beyond words to action, according to an Action Alert issued by OPW on Tuesday.

“Now more than ever, it is necessary for the United States to restore its aid to UNRWA and other bilateral assistance programs, reaffirming its commitment to the Palestinian people by providing them with much-needed humanitarian assistance,” according to OPW.

Churches for Middle East Peace issued a similar alert on Tuesday, a day the organization has been promoting as a Day of Action on restoring humanitarian aid to the West Bank and Gaza as well as UNRWA. CMEP is a coalition of about 30 national church communions and organizations working to encourage U.S. policies that actively promote just, lasting and comprehensive resolutions to conflicts in the Middle East, according to its website.

The Trump administration announced in 2018 that it would be cutting U.S. aid to UNRWA as well as all bilateral humanitarian assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, according to OPW.

“Before the $360 million in U.S. funding was cut, it accounted for nearly 30% of UNRWA’s budget,” OPW noted. “Although UNRWA continues to operate at full capacity, even with inadequate resources, there is an urgent need for funds to sustain the delivery of essential services — and to maintain the salaries of all of its 30,000 staff members. UNRWA has expressed great concern at its ability to procure said funds without the immediate assistance of the Biden administration.”

President Joe Biden (official photograph)

OPW goes on to say that Biden can release the funding at his discretion and that “it is imperative that he hears the support of the American people for the restoration of funding to UNRWA, among many other humanitarian assistance organizations and programs, all of which provide vital aid and relief to Palestinians.”

Restoration would not only help the refugees, whose plight has been exacerbated by the pandemic, but help “bring about the United States’ re-entry to the global stage as a force for positive change in the name of peace, justice, and human rights,” according to OPW.

Learn more and find a sample letter to President Biden here.

The Office of Public Witness is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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