ELCA presiding bishop joins call to G-8 for debt cancellation

More than 250 U.S. and international religious leaders called on the leaders of the G-8 countries to cancel debts carried by the world’s most indebted poor countries fully.

Chicago: Saying that debt has become “a new form of slavery for the most impoverished nations of the world,” more than 250 U.S. and international religious leaders called on the leaders of the G-8 countries to cancel debts carried by the world’s most indebted poor countries fully. The multi-faith group of religious leaders represents Christian, Hindu and Jewish traditions.

Among those who signed the letter, delivered to the G-8 leaders meeting this week at Sea Island, Ga., was the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and president of the Lutheran World Federation. Another key ELCA representative who signed was the Rev. William E. Lesher, Berkeley, Calif., former president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), and chair of the board of trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, based here. LSTC is one of eight ELCA seminaries.

U.S. President George W. Bush is hosting the annual G-8 Economic Summit, which also includes top leaders of the governments of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom.

In their June 8 letter addressed to leaders of the G-8, the religious leaders said, “We urge you to release life-saving resources in the form of full-debt cancellation. Choose life, not debt. We invite you to usher in the year of Jubilee.”

They asked the leaders of the G-8 countries to “take decisive action” to cancel 100 percent of the debts owed by impoverished nations to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other primary creditors “without imposing harmful conditions.” The religious leaders noted that many of the world’s most impoverished countries are in Africa, and many are affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Others are in Asia and Latin America, they said. “Leading up to the year 2000 world leaders responded to this call by canceling a great deal of bilateral debt,” the religious leaders’ letter said. “However, the demand of Jubilee remains unmet as millions of people remain imprisoned by unjust debt service payments. This unjust debt burden is overwhelming and servicing this debt literally takes food, shelter, health care, education and social services directly from the people that need them most, effectively denying economic and social human rights to the world’s majority.” The religious leaders said an earlier effort to address the debt crisis through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative failed to provide the “robust exit” from the debt crisis that was promised. “HIPC has provided too little relief for too few countries with too many conditions,” the letter said. However, the religious leaders said HIPC did show that initial debt relief works because the money was put to good use through increased spending for health, education and poverty reduction programs.

“As you discuss the importance of canceling the odious debt of Iraq, we call on you to go farther than initial stabs at debt relief and provide full debt cancellation, not only for Iraq but also for all nations ensnared by odious debts throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America,” the leaders said. The leaders noted that the Judeo-Christian Jubilee Scriptures “evoke a rhythmic cycle of rest, release and renewal,” and the religious leaders called on the G-8 leaders to enact these Scriptures through debt cancellation for impoverished nations.

The G-8 letter was released through Jubilee USA Network, Washington, D.C., a diverse network of 60 organizations, including churches, which responded to the international call for Jubilee debt cancellation.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) news service, June 10, 2004

Categories: Africa, Debt Relief, Odious Debts

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