Faith leaders and humanists urge PM to act on global debt

By staff writers
1 Feb 2007

An alliance of sixteen faith community leaders and the chief executive of the British Humanist Association have sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair, urging the government to take further decisive action on the “affront and injustice of international debt”.

Anglicans, Methodists, humanists, black-led churches, Muslims, Sikhs, the Evangelical Alliance, Reform Jews, URC, Baptists, Hindus, African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, Masorti Synagogues, Liberal Judaism, Muslim and Hebrew Congregations (the Chief Rabbi) were represented by signatories. The Catholic Church is not listed, but has made its own appeal to the PM.

The letter recognises the steps that have been taken to remove the financial burden from the poorest countries, but adds: “Without further action the existing international debt crisis will not be ended and the new debt crisis that is brewing will not be averted – and people who are poor will continue to pay the price.”

The leaders declare: “Without further action the existing international debt crisis will not be ended and the new debt crisis that is brewing will not be averted – and people who are poor will continue to pay the price.”

They conclude with a ringing call to “let the oppressed go free”, a biblical injunction which has strong resonance with people of all faiths and none.

The full text of the letter reads as follows:

Dear Prime Minister

In a year when together we recognise the affront and injustice of slavery and acknowledge the extraordinary commitment of campaigners that made such a difference two hundred years ago, we are today urging you to further action on the affront and injustice of international debt.

We fully recognise that this government has done much to keep the issue on the international agenda, and there has been progress which has brought benefits for the health and education of people who are poor.

But the task is not complete. When ten years ago campaigners first proclaimed the vision of Jubilee – a new start for poor people and poor nations – it was a vision of justice, of openness and transparency, of new processes that would hold lenders responsible for the impact of their loans on people and the environment.

Today we are once again committing ourselves to work for the realisation of that vision of Jubilee, urging our communities to continue to play their part as we call on you, and all world leaders – whether of rich or poor countries – to do the same.
Without further action the existing international debt crisis will not be ended and the new debt crisis that is brewing will not be averted – and people who are poor will continue to pay the price.

We join together to urge you to use the particular opportunities this year to seek further progress on debt. It is not just about getting more debt cancelled, important though that is. It is about a new vision of relationship between nations – rich and poor, creditor and debtor – characterised not by power, control and corruption but by processes and decisions which prioritise the rights and needs of people who are poor.

Unjust and unpayable debt must be cancelled; debt relief must not be used as an instrument of power and control; there must be fair, democratic and open processes to deal with historic debt and prevent future crises; loans and debt repayments must not be allowed to damage people, their communities and their environment.

Let us all heed the ancient call, no less relevant in 2007: “let the oppressed go free.”

Signed by:

• Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive, British Humanist Association
• Dr Joe Aldred, Chair, Council of Black-Led Churches
• Rev Graham Carter, President of the Methodist Conference
• Dr Indarjit Singh, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations
• The Rev Elizabeth Caswell, Moderator, United Reformed Church General Assembly
• Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield, Head of the Movement for Reform Judaism
• Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
• Bhai Sahib (Dr) Mohinder Singh, Chairperson, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha (Birmingham) UK
• Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, General Secretary, The Muslim Council of Britain
• Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Assembly of Masorti Synagogues
• Rev Katei Kirby, CEO, African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance
• Rev David Coffey, Moderator of the Free Churches
• Rev Jonathan Edwards, General Secretary, Baptist Union of GB
• Rev Joel Edwards, General Director, Evangelical Alliance
• Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary-General, Hindu Forum of Britain
• Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
• Archbishop John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

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