"One of the great moral challenges of our time" - Methodist Leaders Rally to Support Jubilee's World Debt Day

Sunday 16th May 2004 sees the first World Debt Day.  Methodist President of Conference Rev Dr Neil Richardson, joining a chorus of support from faith leaders, said: "World Debt Day on May 16th is a reminder that one of the great moral challenges of our time is the struggle for a fairer global economy."

Co-ordinated by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the World Debt Day weekend will see people from all faiths and backgrounds organise events and acts of worship to mark the achievements of a campaign that has seen promises of doubling the levels of debt relief. It will also to draw attention to the need to cancel remaining debts. 

In 1999, G8 countries promised to write off $100 billion of poor countries' debt, yet only $36 billion has actually been cancelled.  This means that poor countries' Governments are spending vital resources on debt repayment instead of on building infrastructure.  As a result, poor people continue to be deprived access to basic services like clean water, equipped hospitals and schools. 

Dr Richardson explained: "Many of the poorest countries in the world carry a crushing burden of debt. The world's richest countries live at their expense.  The Jubilee Debt Campaign, therefore, deserves our support in their attempt to end this injustice. I urge Christians of all traditions, in the light of the Bible's 'bias to the poor', to give this campaign all the help they can, and I pray God's blessing upon it."

Structured debt relief allows Governments to use their resources to build social services within their country.  The Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) supports development partners in a number of countries, such as Ethiopia, Cameroon and Senegal, that continue to be burdened by debt. 

MRDF Supporter Relations Co-ordinator Kevin Fray: "The generosity of our supporters enables MRDF partners to play a vital role in helping people to lift themselves out of poverty. However, development aid is only part of the solution. Debt relief can make a huge difference to people's lives. Imagine the global impact if the debts of all Highly Indebted Poor Countries  were completely cancelled right now."

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs for The Methodist Church, adds: "The Methodist Church has long endorsed the Jubilee Debt Campaign. The accumulation of debt in Highly Indebted Poor Counties has built up over a period of years in a large part due to global economic trends that have adversely affected fragile economies.  That this debt should still burden these countries, creating a drag on development, is an injustice."

World Debt Day will see churches across the country hold special services. Campaigners are inviting MPs to come and read a lesson.  Supporters will be organising talks, screening short films and running in races against debt. Mass signings of the Jubilee Debt Campaign's action cards Call for Change will also take place on the day and these will later be sent to Gordon Brown. 

Jubilee Debt Campaigners are hoping to get the issues of debt, trade and development to the forefront of the public and political agenda in time for 2005 when, as the host of the G8 Summit and the holder of the EU presidency, Britain will be a position to drive forward international policies that will really benefit the development of poor countries.

¤       Visit Jubilee Debt Campaign for worship materials or further information on World Debt Day,

¤         MRDF is a small, independent development agency that is rooted in the Methodist Church.  It funds small-scale, locally-based organisations in the poorest countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  These organisations work together with local people to find solutions to a range of community problems in an effort to eliminate poverty and increase opportunities for sustainable development.

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