Let the trumpets sound!
As the new Millennium is virtually upon us, this may be an appropriate time to assess the success or otherwise of the Jubilee 2000 campaign.
The campaign has captured the imagination of the ordinary people - musicians, economists, bankers and print media as well as politicians of all persuasion. That neatly summarises what Jubilee 2000 has achieved. People from all walks of life and with no direct interest in the debt issue have been galvanised into action for justice for the most needy.
A start was made in Cologne in June 1999 when $100bn of unpayable debts was cancelled. However, this did not release any extra resources for investment in the sort of projects that President Clinton wanted to see when he unilaterally cancelled all third world debts owed to USA. Writing off a further $150bn of debt would see the poorest benefit. Harvard economist. Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, has calculated that writing off all third world debts would cost less than a penny a day for the next twenty years - a small price to pay.
It was on April 5, 1997 that the Nottingham Asian Christian Fellowship became the first local group to launch the campaign with the Jubilee 2000 petition. Then on 1st June St Peterís Church was the venue for a public meeting chaired by Bishop Patrick Harris where the main speaker was Ann Pettifor, Director of Jubilee 2000. Amongst those who came to hear her were the High Commissioners of Zambia and Bangladesh and many representatives of various churches and charities.
From there was born a coalition which holds regular meetings with guest speakers like Nick Buxton from the national office and Kofi Mawuli Klu co-ordinator of the African campaign. Our January meeting will see Adrian Lovett, the deputy director, bringing us right up to date. We have collected in excess of 43,000 signatures to date. Our supporters have turned up in large numbers - at Birmingham in May 98, London in June 99, and Cologne in June 99. Our message has been heard regularly on local radio and in various gatherings like the Green Festival, Southwellís Jubilee Day and the forthcoming Millennium celebrations, Y2K 1-1. Various public events, demonstrations and poster campaigns have marked the countdown to the all-important date, most recently the 50 Hour Vigil in St Peterís Church, 50 days before the new millennium.
50 Hour Vigil: 12Ė14 November
Senior representatives of the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist churches
and a Member of Parliament were among church and community leaders who
attended the lighting of a candle at 12 noon on 12 November to start the
vigil. Groups and individuals maintained prayerful watch by the candle for
the next 50 hours. During this period supporters joined in workshops,
public prayer, chain-making, letter-writing and frugal bring-and-share
meals. There were displays and information leaflets for the constant
stream of visitors, many of whom signed petitions and a giant IOU to a
child in Africa. Two of those attending fasted throughout.
Credit must be given to the present Government for leading the world in addressing the debt problem. But it is time to do more than talk. Campaigners want the British government to stop collecting debt repayments from the poorest countries - they have already paid £13 for every £1 they had borrowed. We are calling on Prime Minister Blair to follow President Clinton in unilaterally cancelling all debts owed to us by the 52 poorest countries. All it will cost us is £71m in interest payments that we currently collect at great cost to the sub-Saharan African countries.
We urge Tony Blair to take the lead and call a meeting of the major world leaders so that an announcement tearing down the wall of debt (like the Berlin wall ten years ago) can be made by the start of the new Millennium. The cause is just and the time is right. Let the trumpets sound for the declaration of "the year of the Lord".
Jubilee 2000 web-site