Debt relief supporters encircle U.S. Capitol
Written by Sandra Sorensen
Demonstrators converge on the U.S. Capitol during the April 9 Jubilee 2000 mobilization for debt relief.
© Sandra Sorensen
Following the biblical call for Jubilee—when slaves are set free and debts canceled (Leviticus 25)—on Sunday, April 9, several thousand people joined hands and encircled the U.S. Capitol in an effort to encourage action to relieve the crushing burden of debt on the world's poorest countries.
Among them were more than 100 UCC members who gathered for a morning worship service at First Congregational UCC in downtown Washington, then marched to the Washington Mall for the Jubilee 2000 mobilization. UCC participants traveled from Seattle, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania, joining with advocates from across denominations and faith groups, as well as students, union members, and human rights organizers.
Undeterred by strong winds and unusually cold April temperatures, demonstrators listened to musicians and speakers, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and Archbishop of Honduras Oscar Rodríguez. Speakers called for international action for debt relief to allow countries to direct much-needed money to basic social services. UCC young people were well-represented. They expressed a sense of commitment to stand with children and youth in debt-burdened nations who enjoy far less access to education, health care and other human services.
Children and youth constructed yards of paper chains to symbolize the suffering caused by massive debts. Then, led by shofars and trumpets, rally participants formed a human chain around the U.S. Capitol in a show of support for debt cancellation. Young and old draped in paper chains chanted "Save the children, kill the debt" as they circled the Capitol building.
Churches have been urging debt relief for two decades. The latest resolution from the UCC came last year during General Synod 22, where delegates passed a resolution in support of debt relief. The Jubilee 2000 campaign is a worldwide movement calling for the cancellation of debts that divert resources away from basic human needs such as education, nutrition, health, clean water and sanitation. Campaign organizers contend that debt contributes to global political, social and economic instability.
For each $1 million sub-Saharan Africa diverts from health and education to service its debt, 24 more women will die in childbirth and 159 infants will die during their first year. In Mozambique one in four children dies before age 5, yet the government spends four times as much money on debt service than it does on health care.
UCC worshipers at First Congregational were reminded that the root meaning of economy is household. Economic globalization has created a global household and the most vulnerable members of the household are suffering. The Scripture reading for the day, drawn from 2 Corinthians 2:5, captured the vision of the Jubilee 2000 movement for debt relief:
"This is what I think you should do: last year you were the first to want to give, and you were the first who gave. So now finish the work you started. Then your 'doing' will be equal to your 'wanting to do.' At this time you have plenty. What you have can help others who are in need. Then later, when they have plenty, they can help you when you are in need, and all will be equal."
Visit www.ucc.org/ucnews/jubilee for expanded Jubilee 2000 coverage.
Sandra Sorensen is Associate for Communications and Resource Development for the UCC Office for Church in Society.