Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 21 November 2006


By Jim Jordal

Last week I wrote that the economic wind is changing as evidenced by the increasing attention paid by people of faith to the onerous burden of Third World debt, much of which is unconscionable, unjust, and unpayable. I also wrote that the World Bank and some other members of the international financial community were dragging their feet on debt cancellation, as they have done over the past 20 years. They agreed in principle to debt forgiveness, but attached enough qualifications to stretch it out over several more years. The result would be that additional millions would starve as their destitute countries struggled to service their remaining debts.

But a true miracle occurred! But the same week I wrote the article the World Bank reversed its previous position and promised to move ahead on almost immediate total debt cancellation for 17 countries. Below is a copy of the e-mail I received from Jubilee USA headquarters explaining what happened. Considering the previous posture of the World Bank on this matter, this is truly a miracle.

[Headline] Jubilee USA Welcomes World Bank Approval of Debt Cancellation Deal; Applauds Bank’s Reversal of Policy on Additional Delays to Eligible Poor Countries

WASHINGTON: March 29, 2006 – Jubilee USA Network welcomed the decision yesterday by the World Bank Executive Board to approve a financing framework for debt cancellation for an initial 17 countries effective July 1, and applauded the Bank’s reversal of a proposal it had been poised to approve which would have added significant delays to countries receiving needed debt cancellation.

Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network said: "We welcome today the reversal of a proposal at the World Bank that would have delayed for up to 15 months debt cancellation for some nations. Tens of thousands of phone calls and e-mail messages from Jubilee supporters to World Bank President Wolfowitz; a letter from several prominent US Congressmembers; and support from allies in governments and civil society across the globe led to this important reversal. But as we highlight this step forward today, we are clear that our work is far from done – we will build our campaign in the months ahead for a true Jubilee cancellation of debt, including cancellation of all unjust and unfair debts without harmful economic strings attached."

The plan for implementation of debt cancellation originally under consideration at the World Bank Board would have required impoverished countries to keep making non-refundable debt payments to the World Bank, even after reaching completion point – when they were promised relief. The announcement by the World Bank yesterday reversed this proposal, allowing additional impoverished countries that complete mandatory economic reforms and reach "completion point" in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s debt relief program to see their debts canceled within three months of qualifying. This will enable a country like Malawi which is estimated to reach completion point in June to see debt cancellation to the World Bank on July 1, 2006, rather having to wait until July 2007 for desperately needed relief.

The debt agreement finalized yesterday will cancel 100% of 17 impoverished countries’ debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and African Development Bank in 2006. But the deal excludes dozens of other impoverished nations that require debt cancellation to meet Millennium Development Goals and debt to other significant creditors such as the Inter-American Development Bank, does not address odious and illegitimate debt, and preserves economic conditionality. Jubilee USA will continue its campaigns to build on the current agreement towards a bold Jubilee cancellation of debt to fight poverty in 2006 and beyond.

Jubilee USA Network is the US arm of the international movement working for debt cancellation for impoverished nations. Jubilee USA is a network of 75 religious denominations and faith-based groups, labor groups, environmental organizations, and community and advocacy groups working for freedom from debt and economic justice for countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America (end of Jubilee USA e-mail).

This somewhat astounding reversal was in response to tens of thousands of e-mails and letters from concerned citizens, including myself. This is advocacy, as contrasted to charity. Ask yourself how much charity it would take to accomplish this much relief for these 17 nations? That's why charity, good as it is, must be supplemented by advocacy if these pressing issues are ever to be solved. The Christian church is good on charity, as it should be in response to the hundreds of Bible verses commanding us to be generous to "the least of these." Unfortunately, we're not so strong on advocacy, although that also is an action commanded by God for His church. As Isaiah said of the prophetic function: "Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice as a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins." That's a role more and more needed in our churches, and that's a role that will grow, as we further understand what God is doing in this world.