IN LUKE’S GOSPEL, Jesus begins his public ministry by speaking of the “year of the Lord’s favor”—the year of Jubilee. The Hebrew scriptures lay out this process, in which a society regularly forgives debts, restores land, and sets captives free. This was actually practiced in ancient times and protected all people from losing or gaining too much.
Jubilee USA Network arose as a part of the global movement to forgive unjust debt and, together with Jubilee partners in 50 countries, continues to work to reform the international financial system to protect and ensure the participation of the most vulnerable. We are a coalition of 200 congregations and 75 organizations in the U.S., including groups such as Sojourners, the Episcopal Church, and the AFL-CIO.
Now that international debt crises have migrated from the global South to the North, we are seeing new opportunities to enflesh the biblical concept of Jubilee: We are advocating, and decision-makers are considering, real solutions to deal with the root causes of the international financial crises.
At Jubilee USA, we believe that to reduce the need for international lending, we need to restore revenue in poor countries. Between 2000 and 2008, the developing world lost $6.5 trillion in tax evasion and other illicit financial flows—if that money had been taxed even modestly, it would have eliminated the debt crises in the developing world. That is why this year Jubilee USA helped to launch the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency Coalition (the FACT Coalition) and helped introduce legislation to close tax havens, end corporate secrecy, and stop international tax avoidance to end the need for poor country borrowing and restore revenues to the developing world.
When lending happens, we must ensure it is fair, and arbitration must be created for existing loans. This is why Jubilee USA is working to introduce the bipartisan Jubilee Act to instruct the Treasury Department to work for responsible lending and borrowing within the international financial system and to create an international bankruptcy court. Finally, our current work also includes working for greater transparency and popular participation in the international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund.
The time is now for real solutions to the international debt crises. The concept of a real, biblical Jubilee has never been more relevant.
Eric LeCompte is executive director of the Jubilee USA Network (jubileeusa.org).