The Cancel Debt Fast

The following article by Kristin Sundell, of Jubilee USA, announces the national "Rolling Fast" campaign from September 6--October 15. The purpose is to raise awareness of the international debt crisis and encourage Congress to pass the JUBILEE Act for debt cancellation . It also gives a brief, but good outline of the extent of the crisis, the biblical basis for our response to it, and the origins of the Jubilee movement. Read it and respond if you can. Many good things have been breaking our way in the last few months, and your help is needed to push the issue forward one more step.

Seven years after the beginning of the new millennium, we live in a world that is seriously out of balance. Every day, 13 percent of the worlds population goes hungry and more than 30,000 children die of easily preventable diseases.

The global gap between rich and poor continues to grow despite a global commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which would cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. This year we mark the halfway point to the MDGs, but most countries are nowhere near meeting these goals. In sub Saharan Africa the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has actually increased since 1990 (the baseline year for the MDGs).

Some of the money needed to address extreme poverty can be generated from aid, but new infusions of aid cannot be effective until the drain of debt payments is stopped. Pouring more aid into impoverished countries without debt cancellation is like trying to fill a bathtub with the drain open.

In addition to its current impacts, the origins of the debt are unjust. A large portion of the current debt burden was accrued under oppressive regimes or unfair terms. During the Cold War era, loans were often made more for ideological and political reasons than for reasons of assisting development or addressing human needs. In places like apartheid South Africa, much of the money that was loaned was used to oppress the majority of the population. As people of faith we must ask, Why should impoverished people endlessly pay for bad loans that never benefited them?

In the Hebrew scriptures and in the Gospels, we find a vision of life that is liberating and just, governed by Sabbath cycles--the Sabbath Day, the Sabbath Year, and the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25 and Luke 4). Jubilee is a powerful expression of Gods intent that all creatures partake fully in the abundance of Gods world.

Sabbath Year observance requires that every seven years debts are cancelled and those enslaved because of debt are freed, restoring equal relations among community members and preventing a widening gap between rich and poor.

In the late 1990s, a broad network of people of faith and conscience came together under the banner of Jubilee 2000, engaging their communities and challenging policy makers to address the international debt crisis. This mobilization brought the issue of debt to the world stage in 1999 and again in 2005, and won significant levels of relief for many countries, but it did not end the debt crisis.

Moved by the continuing debt crisis, and inspired by the Jubilee vision, people around the world are calling their political leaders to observe a Sabbath Year in 2007, seven years after Jubilee 2000.

This September 6 - October 15, thousands of people across the country and around the world will demonstrate their commitment by participating in a 40-day, Cancel Debt Fast for debt cancellation and an end to extreme global poverty.

The fast will be organized in tandem with a public ministry of prayer and fasting led by UCC pastor, Rev. David Duncombe. Rev. Duncombes ministry will involve an open-ended fast, beginning on September 6th. In the spirit of Isaiah 58:6, the Cancel Debt Fast will seek to loose the chains of injustice and to set the oppressed free. As he fasts, Rev. Duncombe will visit Congressional offices, urging the passage of the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation (H.R. 2634).

People of faith and conscience are urged to participate in the Cancel Debt Fast by visiting cancel debt fast and publicly committing to fast for a day or more. During their fast, supporters should contact or meet with their Senators and Representative, urging them to support the Jubilee Act.

We know that debt cancellation works. Debt relief now has a ten year track record of freeing up resources to fight poverty. The documented impacts of the 2005 round of debt cancellation include thousands of new teachers hired, the importation of vital food supplies for those affected by drought, and the provision of health care for millions who could not afford it before. But only 1 in 10 of the worlds poorest will benefit from debt cancellation provided to date.

The imperative to finish what was started remains: to lift the excruciating burden of debt that continues to siphon resources from impoverished countries that should be used for health care, education, and clean water. What better time than the 2007 Sabbath Year to finally commit to the debt cancellation necessary to address the crisis of extreme poverty?

Kristin Sundell is the director of advocacy and organizing for Jubilee USA Network.

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