Senator Chris Coons reflects on his first visit to Africa and how seeing thousands of people on the verge of starvation spurred him to action.
Coons will speak at an event Wednesday night at the National Press Club in Washington sponsored by Coons’ alma mater, Yale Divinity School. He’ll talk about the role of government and the faith community in combating poverty.
Coons says his visit to Africa in 1984 is something that has stuck with him. “To know first hand just how many people in the world, how many children are dying every day of diseases that could be prevented for literally pennies a day, who die because of lack of clean water, or lack of vaccinations or lack of access to basic food, it’s hard to get that out of your mind and out of your soul,” Coons says. “It is haunting.”
The event is also sponsored by International Relief and Development (IRD), an aid organization founded by Dr. Arthur Keys. IRD provides nearly $500 million annually in development assistance to Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Keys says at the start of Lent, it’s important to focus on what is most important in life. “We’re very focused on helping people remember those less fortunate, and to focus our efforts as a society and an organization on helping end poverty,” Keys says.
Coons will talk about how people of faith should respond to the challenge of global poverty, “How do we balance our own domestic needs -to bring down our deficit and focus on job creation- how do we balance that with development, relief and security in other places of the world that are very deeply troubled.”