Jim Wallis vividly recalls the optimism at the ecumenical "Call to Jubilee" service on the eve of the WTO conference ("Seattle: Changing the Rules," March-April 2000). I sat near the pulpit as Wallis compared late 1999 to the important years in the civil rights movement, where we now again are confronting an injustice committed by our society, this one with ramifications on nearly one-fifth of the world’s population. Recent reports of commitments by President Clinton and other G-7 leaders to cancel debts have vindicated the efforts of the Jubilee 2000 initiative.
Yet Leviticus 25, as Wallis points out, requires more than the elimination of debt. The debtors must receive what they have been denied, in order that they can manage their resources and determine their own survival. The optimism at the progress made toward debt relief may result in a sense of complacency among some Jubilee supporters, who may perceive cancellation of debt as the final objective. Cancellation without follow through would forgive the guilty without redirecting resources back into the communities.
Christians who support the goals of Jubilee 2000 need to examine their own roles in sustaining development of the affected areas. A continuing program of development and investment in the countries selected for debt relief will ultimately be more beneficial than reliance on existing institutions and leaders. Ironically, the extension of mini-loans to many of the poorest people may be more helpful than large-scale programs of aid funneled through government agencies.