"Must we starve our children to pay our debts?"
-- Julius Nyerere, former president of Tanzania
This week Congress will vote on the Jubilee Act, the most important debt legislation since 2000. I was an undergraduate theology student when the Jubilee 2000 movement made headlines, and it transformed the way I saw my faith. In short, I discovered the prophetic power of faith to transform injustice and what it looks like to see the Word made flesh. Now, eight years later, I have the honor of working for the Jubilee USA Network and writing to you about the ways in which people of faith around the world continue to fulfill the call to "proclaim jubilee."
The Jubilee Act will expand access to debt cancellation to all the countries that need it to fight extreme poverty. Without debt cancellation, it will be nearly impossible for many countries to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.
The faith community has a history of moral leadership on the debt issue. In 2000 and again in 2005, world leaders came together to cancel billions of dollars of debt in dozens of impoverished countries around the world. The money freed by debt cancellation has been directed to fight global AIDS, enroll children in school, provide clean water, and improve rural infrastructure among other poverty-focused initiatives. But there is still much more that needs to be done -- 44 impoverished countries around the world are still waiting for debt justice!
The world's most impoverished countries pay more than $100 million each day in debt payments to wealthy governments and financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In countries where the majority of the population lives on less than $1 per day, this money should be spent on clean water, basic health care, and education rather than repaying some of the world's wealthiest financial institutions.
The U.S. House of Representatives is going to vote on the Jubilee Act this week! Call your representative today through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Brian Swarts is the national field organizer for Jubilee USA Network. You can find out more about debt justice, how to get involved in Jubilee, and even find a script to use for your call by visiting www.jubileeusa.org.