Religious leaders praised the House this week for passing the Jubilee Act, which pushes the Treasury Department to seek debt cancellation agreements with 24 countries.
The bill, which passed 285-132 on April 16, targets countries that need their debts canceled in order to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals, which seek to eradicate extreme poverty and halt the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
"We commend the U.S. Congress for its bold step in passing the Jubilee Act and listening to the people of the impoverished nations who have borne the burden of unjust debt for far too long," said Patricia Rumer, co-chair of the Washington-based Jubilee USA Network, which includes religious groups, development agencies, and civil and human rights groups.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president, said the House vote was a significant step forward. "Global debt relief remains paramount if the world's impoverished nations and people are ever to enjoy the promise of economic justice," Thomas said.
A Senate panel is scheduled to consider related legislation April 24.
The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), hailed the House passage as "an important step towards building a world in which deadly poverty no longer stands in the way of the full flourishing of all God's people."
The bill seeks reform of International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies so that more resources can be allocated for grants to the world's poorest countries.
"Funds going from poor countries to well-heeled financial institutions to service debt should instead be used to improve education, provide better health care for all people, and increase food security for the poorest," said Ruth Messinger, president of American Jewish World Service.