If a biblically inspired movement has its way, the year 2000 will usher in a fresh start for the worlds poor through massive debt relief.
Jubilee 2000 is creating the largest petition the world has ever seen, to be presented to the 1999 G-7 conference in Germany. It urges that the debts of the worlds poorest nations be canceled by 2000 to give hope to impoverished people around the world.
Jubilee 2000 has been organized largely by Christians and church organizations inspired by the biblical tradition of debt relief and release for slaves every 50 years. Those themes resonate with the moral outrage aroused by debt-related suffering. Life for millions of Third World people is becoming harsher as governments divert money from education, health care, and other needs to debt payments.
Tanzania, for example, spends four times as much on debt servicing as it does on health and education combined. Debt payments are expected to devour one-third of Mozambiques government spending for 1997.
"What has happened to our Christian conscience?" asks John Patrick Ngoyi, a Catholic priest in Nigeria active in the campaign. "When those dollars went out in loans, they were clean. Now they are tainted with sweat and blood. Who is paying? The woman who cant get medicine. The girl who cant go to school.
"This is the time to forgive each other, to realize that human selfishness might have led us too far from God. Is the God of Jesus Christ only a God of rituals or a God of life?" Adds Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "It is a chance for renewal for everybody."