U2 frontman Bono, quoting the Koran, the Bible and rock band Dire Straits, urged President George W. Bush on February 02 to boost US aid to the world's poor by some 25 billion dollars.
"This is not about charity, it's about justice," the singer and activist told the annual US national prayer breakfast, which included Bush, members of Congress, and Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders.
"That's too bad, because we're good at charity," he said. "But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice, it makes a farce of our idea of equality."
"There's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that, deep down, we would let it happen anywhere else," said the rock star, a champion of funding to fight AIDS and famine worldwide.
"Mr President, Congress, people of faith, people of America, I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing, which, to be truly meaningful, will need an additional one per cent of the federal budget tithed to the poor," said Bono.
Bush's Office of Management and Budget, reached by the news agency, estimated that the US government spent about 2.473 trillion dollars in 2005, making the singer's request roughly 25 billion dollars in addition to existing aid.
Wearing pale yellow sunglasses, the singer opened by joking about his attendance at the event, and asked the guests to "please join me in praying that I don't say something we all regret."
"If you're wondering what I'm doing here at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. I'm certainly not here because I'm a rock star. Which leaves only one possible explanation: I've got a messianic complex," he quipped.
He said that there was "something unnatural, something even unseemly" about a rock star "mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents," interrupting himself at one point to ask: "Mr President, as you sure about this?"
The Irish singer said he had generally avoided religious people as a result of having a Protestant father and Catholic mother "in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, often a battle line."
From his parents, he got "the sense that religion often gets in the way of God. For me, at least, it got in the way, seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land," he said.
"Even in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on their TV cable channels, offering indulgences for cash," he said, adding that when he came across them he changed channels because "I wanted my MTV" - a paraphrase of a Dire Straits lyric from their song "Money for Nothing."
But, he said, he was inspired by religious leaders coming together to fight the spread of AIDS, and by the Catholic church's call for debt relief for the world's poorest countries.
Bono took pains to praise Bush for US generosity around the world, saying that Washington could have "drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors" after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"You should be very, very proud. But here's the problem:
There's so much more to do. There is a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response," said the singer.
Bush then praised Bono as "a doer. The thing about this good citizen of the world is he's used his position to get things done. You're an amazing guy, Bono. God bless you."