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29 January 2013

Faith leaders call for radical economic reform

Faith leaders call for radical economic reform

As of January 2013, the level of global public debt stands at almost $50,000,000,000,000. Can you even say that number?

Evangelical faith leaders are among 347 individuals to have signed a letter calling for a "Jubilee for Justice" in response to the European debt crisis.

The movement is affiliated with the Jubilee Debt Campaign, which demands freedom from the slavery of unjust debts and a new financial system that puts people first.

The group was inspired by "the ancient idea of jubilee, a time where debts were cancelled, slaves were freed and land was redistributed", and the letter calls for "a new debt jubilee in response to today's global economic crisis: a Jubilee for Justice".

The group adds that: "The Hebrew scriptures speak of a Jubilee Year in which unpayable debts should be cancelled. The gospel writer, Luke, records that Jesus began his public ministry with a call to restore the just economy of jubilee where all have enough. Jesus also tells those who have assets to lend without expecting a return."

Thirty-seven Church of England bishops have signed the letter alongside representatives from the Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Zoroastrian faiths. The signatories include Joel Edwards, director of Micah Challenge International and former general director of the Evangelical Alliance, and Mike Hill, bishop of Bristol and a current member of the Evangelical Alliance Council.

The statement will be delivered to prime minister David Cameron after an event in parliament, run by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, on 5 February.

This action comes 15 years after the initial launch of Jubilee 2000, when faith groups played a major role in a campaign that led to £80 billion worth of debt cancellation for some of the world's most impoverished countries, bringing healthcare and education to millions of people. Despite this success, many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are still burdened by debts, which have increased since the financial crisis began.

The campaign organisers have warned that "governments never fixed the system that created these debts, and the European banking crisis has shown that the problem of debt is greater than ever in the world today". The letter adds: "A self-serving financial system has brought the global economy to its knees and we are now seeing the poorest people in our own society and around the world paying the price for this excess."

The group proposes a number of actions in response to this crisis. The letter states: "We need far reaching changes in the global economy to build a society based on justice, mutual support and community. We need economic and political as well as spiritual renewal in our society".

The campaign is keen to emphasise that true change must involve a radical new approach, stating that: "A Jubilee for Justice means not just cancelling unjust debts, though this is vital, but taking additional steps to secure a global economy where people will never again be enslaved by debts … Finance must be put back in its place as a means to human well being."

The letter identifies key points of action as "cancelling the unjust debts of the most indebted nations; promoting just and progressive taxation rather than excessive borrowing; and stopping harmful lending which forces countries into debt".

However, the signatories have emphasised that their call is about justice, not charity, explaining: "In recent times, the idea of Jubilee has been applied to the need to cancel the unfair debts of many 'Third World' countries. This does not represent charity towards the impoverished but a call for justice: to reform the basis of the global economy and renew relationships between high and low income countries."

Visit www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/jubileeforjustice for more information on the campaign.

Photo: Piers Calvert