The Common Good
July-August 1998

To Break the Chains of Debt

by Mara Louise Vanderslice | July-August 1998

In an awesome display of people power, 70,000 demonstrators linked arms to "break
the chains of debt" at the recent G8 summit of world economic leaders in Birmingham,
England.

In an awesome display of people power, 70,000 demonstrators linked arms to "break the chains of debt" at the recent G8 summit of world economic leaders in Birmingham, England. The human chain surrounded the city center on May 16 to raise the issue of crushing debt for the poorest countries. The Jubilee 2000 Coalition, founders of the international movement to cancel unpayable Third World debt, organized the monumental event.

We gathered in our sections of the chain, then at 3 p.m. we amassed with other sections, linked arms, cheered, blew whistles, and did the wave to let the sound of jubilee surround the city. The joyous lines of cheering people stretched out around every corner. To be in the midst of a 7-mile-long chain of folks concerned about such an abstract issue as Third World debt was an awe-inspiring, mind-blowing, life-changing experience.

The G8 leaders, for whom the event was tailored, secluded themselves in a country retreat at the last minute. However, surely because of our presence, the debt burden was put on their agenda. British Prime Minister Tony Blair met personally with the leaders of the UK group to express interest and support for debt relief.

The greatest impact of the human chain may not have been on the leaders of the G8 but rather in the birth of a new hope in the hearts of those who linked arms. It is a sign of something new afoot—an international awakening to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in the South and a uniting to take a stand on their behalf for justice and compassion in the new millennium.

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