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|Fighting Terrorism with Love||
At a time when the world is focused on the struggles in Iraq, America is quietly fighting the war on terror on another front. Last week, President Bush welcomed the Ambassadors and representatives of the 16 Millennium Challenge countries to a ceremony at the White House.
"In many nations, poverty remains chronic and desperate," Bush told the crowd. "Half the world's people still live on less than $2 a day. This divide between wealth and poverty, between opportunity and misery, is far more than a challenge to our compassion. Persistent poverty and oppression can spread despair across an entire nation, and they can turn nations of great potential into the recruiting grounds of terrorists."
The Millennium Challenge program is designed to help build and stabilize some of the poorest countries in the world -- countries that show promise for the future, but need a helping hand to lift them out of their despair. Most of the participants are in Africa, from Senegal to Lesotho, but they also include the former Soviet states of Armenia and Georgia, and some in Central and South America.
"[These countries] must invest in their people by improving their health care systems and their schools. They must unleash the energy and creativity necessary for economic growth by opening up their markets, removing barriers to entrepreneurship, and reducing excessive bureaucracy and regulation," the President said.
Under this program, the United States has pledged to significantly increase its core development assistance. To be eligible for this new money, governments must root out corruption, learn to respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law.
"You have taken the first courageous steps toward greater independence and greater wealth, and greater hopes for the people you serve," the President said.
My wife, Betty, and I just returned from Nicaragua, the second-poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and one of the Millennium Challenge recipients. We have witnessed firsthand the impact of this type of outreach to impoverished people. Anti-American sentiment may be high in parts of the Middle East and Europe, but in other developing areas where both governmental and non-governmental support is helping to bring the people out of hopelessness and despair, the atmosphere is filled with gratitude and joy.
Our efforts took us into former Sandinista territory where Communism has reduced the country to a people of abject poverty. Many families still live under sheets of tin, patches of cardboard, pieces of plastic and other ramshackle shelters. The dirt floors quickly turn to mud when the seasonal rains set in. Smoke from their fires choke the area as they attempt to stay warm or cook their food.
With the help of our supporters all over the world, our "Homes For Life" program has built actual houses with doors, windows, stoves and rooms. Those who receive these homes express a heartfelt gratitude that fills us with great joy. One woman wept and exclaimed, "Others came and promised help, but never came back. You came back!"
To help fight sickness and death, our "Water For Life" program has drilled hundreds of water wells throughout the world, providing a source of clean, parasite-free drinking water. The effects of this simple outreach are phenomenal: disease is halted, the overall health of the people improves, and children's lives are saved.
While our brave young men and women fight against factions of terrorists, we must remember to also fight against the forces that often help breed terrorism: hopelessness, despair and poverty. The only way to conduct this type of campaign is with direct contact with people. We must reach out to the hurting, dying people of the world and lift them up. When we learn to truly love our neighbors in the world community, we will no longer have to fear them.