"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 DebtDay.  Methodist President of Conference Rev Dr NeilRichardson, joining a chorus of support from faith leaders, said:"World Debt Day on May 16th is a reminder that one of the greatmoral challenges of our time is the struggle for a fairer globaleconomy."

Co-ordinated by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the World Debt Dayweekend will see people from all faiths and backgrounds organiseevents and acts of worship to mark the achievements of a campaignthat has seen promises of doubling the levels of debt relief. Itwill also to draw attention to the need to cancel remainingdebts. 

In 1999, G8 countries promised to write off $100 billion of poorcountries' debt, yet only $36 billion has actually beencancelled.  This means that poor countries' Governments arespending vital resources on debt repayment instead of on buildinginfrastructure.  As a result, poor people continue to bedeprived access to basic services like clean water, equippedhospitals and schools. 

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

Structured debt relief allows Governments to use their resourcesto build social services within their country.  The MethodistRelief and Development Fund (MRDF) supports development partners ina number of countries, such as Ethiopia, Cameroon and Senegal, thatcontinue to be burdened by debt. 

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

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs for TheMethodist Church, adds: "The Methodist Church has long endorsed theJubilee Debt Campaign. The accumulation of debt in Highly IndebtedPoor Counties has built up over a period of years in a large partdue to global economic trends that have adversely affected fragileeconomies.  That this debt should still burden thesecountries, creating a drag on development, is an injustice."

World Debt Day will see churches across the country hold specialservices. Campaigners are inviting MPs to come and read alesson.  Supporters will be organising talks, screening shortfilms and running in races against debt. Mass signings of theJubilee Debt Campaign's action cards Call for Change willalso take place on the day and these will later be sent to GordonBrown. 

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

¤       Visit Jubilee DebtCampaign for worship materials or further information onWorld Debt Day,

¤         MRDF is a small, independentdevelopment agency that is rooted in the Methodist Church.  Itfunds small-scale, locally-based organisations in the poorestcountries of Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Theseorganisations work together with local people to find solutions toa range of community problems in an effort to eliminate poverty andincrease opportunities for sustainable development.