Nationwide Observance of Jubilee Sunday

People of Faith Pray for End to Global Poverty and Take Action – January 21

On Sunday, January 21, 2007, thousands of people of faith across the country will observe Jubilee Sunday. Jubilee Sunday is a time to pray, reflect and take action to end world poverty by canceling the debts of impoverished countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. 2007 is a Sabbath Year, a Biblical mandate that requires that debts be forgiven and right relations be restored every seven years.

"Around the world, one in five people live on less than one dollar a day in extreme poverty that is unimaginable to most Americans. They are part of our human family, and our faith requires us to care for them as we would our own parents, siblings and children," said Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of the Jubilee USA Network.

Local congregations will be reading from Luke 4:14-21, a key Jubilee scripture in which Jesus declares a jubilee or "year of the Lord's favor" by proclaiming God's liberation for all oppressed and impoverished people. Parishioners will also write to their Congress Members and Senators asking them to support new debt legislation in the Sabbath Year.

Jubilee Sunday participants will also call on the U.S. government to support immediate debt cancellation for Liberia under the leadership of its new president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first democratically elected female head of state in Africa. Parishioners will send Valentines to the U.S. Treasury urging them to "Have a Heart, and Cancel Liberia's Debt."

In the 1970s, developing nations borrowed money often with unfairly high interest rates and sometimes to the benefit of dictators rather than their people. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa is the world's most impoverished region but carries $201 billion in debt, despite repaying more than 90% of the $294 billion received between 1970 and 2002. Today, they remain burdened with paying $14 billion annually in debt service.

Over the decades, developing nations fell into a downward spiral of servicing their debt obligations rather than providing clean water, adequate housing, AIDS prevention, basic health care, and schooling for their people.

This is why debt relief works. Domestic spending in countries that have received debt relief has increased by 75%. For example, Tanzania received $3 billion in debt relief, enabling the country to increase funding for poverty reduction by 130 percent over the last six years. Almost overnight, an estimated 1.6 million children returned to school. Debt relief enabled Mozambique to make strides in combating HIV/AIDS. By 2002, 24 testing and counseling offices were opened; 50 offices will be operating by 2007.

"As people of faith, we have a duty to help end the suffering of people who, by accident of birth, live in unimaginable poverty. If we care about the future of the world community, we must all do our part, starting with asking our elected officials in Washington, D.C. to support bold new debt legislation that would provide debt relief to many more countries that need it," said Debayani Kar, Communications & Advocacy Coordinator of the Jubilee USA Network.

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