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1999 NCC News Archives

CWS Releases Lapel Pin to Support Jubilee 2000 Debt Relief Campaign

How to Order a Chain

Church World Service is releasing a "Break the Chains of Debt" lapel chain in support of the Jubilee 2000/USA Campaign, which challenges rich nations to cancel the unpayable debt owed by the most impoverished countries. The lapel chains can be ordered for $2.50 each, with bulk discounts available, from Church World Service, 28606 Phillips St., P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515, specify #ED 9920. Orders of $10 or more can be called in to 800-297-1516 ext. 222. Ordering information is also available through the CWS Web site at www.churchworldservice.org .

June 15, 1999, NEW YORK -- Church World Service's release of a lapel chain and brochure in support of the Jubilee 2000 debt reduction campaign comes during a crucial week for the international campaign – the week leading up to the last G8 meeting this millennium – and as an important national hearing in the House Banking Committee takes up international debt issues today.

"The Jubilee 2000 Campaign is gaining momentum, with the Jubilee 2000 petition now standing at over 12 million and growing," said the Rev. Dr. Rodney Page, CWS Executive Director. "It is backed by religious and moral leaders including the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali, Kofi Annan and Rev. Jesse Jackson, as well as by pop and film stars including Sir Anthony Hopkins, Bono, Lauryn Hill and Stevie Wonder. This week is a big week for shows of solidarity with the G8 Summit in Cologne, Germany on June 19. The G8 meeting is a great opportunity for world leaders to announce a breakthrough."

Celebrities and supporters will surround the G8 Summit in Cologne with a human chain of 50,000 people. There will also be human chains in the United States this week, including one around the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C. on Friday, June 18. 50,000 people formed a human chain around the Thames in London on June 13.

CWS Sees Firsthand Effects of Debt Burden

Church World Service is the human development, emergency relief and refugee assistance ministry of the National Council of Churches (NCC), working in more than 80 countries around the world. "In our work, from Africa to Latin America, we have seen firsthand the effects of international debt on ordinary people, especially children," Dr. Page said. "We support Jubilee 2000 as a call of compassion for those people living in poor, highly indebted countries. Big money loaned to their governments never benefited them in the first place and yet the burden of debt deepens their suffering. According to the United Nations, debt cancellation could save the lives of seven million children each year."

The NCC is one of thousands of organizations in over 60 countries that have joined the Jubilee 2000 Coalition in calling upon world leaders to celebrate the millennium by canceling the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries by the end of the year 2000. "As an agency that is part of the Jubilee 2000 coalition, we are proud to be the distributor of this lapel chain and brochure," said Dr. Page. "The pin will help to bring public attention to the campaign by making it possible for people to make a public statement. It symbolizes both the problem and the solution, the suffering and the hope. The brochure gives important facts and contact information for elected officials, and contains detachable postcards to President Clinton and CWS."

The lapel pin spells out 2000 with the number "2" plus three links of chain hanging from it – symbolizing the chains of debt owed by African, Asian and Latin American nations that spend four times more on paying their debts than on education, health and nutrition. "The chain is also an important symbol for the common cause this movement has brought about, with people all over the world forming human chains in support of the campaign," Dr. Page said.

"This lapel pin symbolizes the solidarity we in the Jubilee 2000 movement feel with impoverished peoples around the world who want the burden of unpayable foreign debt lifted off their backs," said Carole Collins, National Coordinator of Jubilee 2000/USA. "It's a unique kind of fashion statement, one for economic justice. Everyone who wears this pin – from rock stars to public officials to ordinary citizens moved by the plight of people in highly indebted countries – is telling our policymakers to cancel the crushing debt of poor countries, to allow a fresh start for the world's poor by the new millennium. This would free up significant resources to reduce poverty as well as reduce the economic pressures that lead to exploiting the environment."

Dr. Page has sent a letter with a sample pin and brochure going to 1,200 denominational and ecumenical organizations encouraging church leaders to promote the pin and educational materials. Additionally, the pins will be distributed at denominational and ecumenical events this summer including Bread for the World's National Gathering in Washington, D.C., the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Assembly in Fort Worth, Tex., the United Church of Christ General Conference in Providence, R.I. and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Synod Hunger Event in Chicago, Ill.

Debt Cancellation Makes Moral and Economic Sense

"Church World Service and many denominations in the United States have banded together with people of faith all across the world in the Jubilee 2000 Campaign, based on the biblical call to celebrate the jubilee every 50 years – forgiving debts, freeing slaves and returning land to the landless (Leviticus 25:11)," Dr. Page said.

"Debt cancellation is a moral issue, but also makes good economic sense," he explained. "Unrepayable debt can inflame social conflicts, requiring costly humanitarian interventions. It also encourages poor countries to use cheap but environmentally harmful ways to earn export revenues. Moreover, heavily indebted countries generally are not good customers for U.S. products or investment, since they cannot develop healthy economies if millions of their people can barely survive."

Among the facts CWS cites in the brochure in support of Jubilee 2000 are:

  • Sub-Saharan African governments owe foreign creditors an average of almost $400 for every man, woman and child – more than most Africans make in a year. (World Bank)
  • In 1997, before Hurricane Mitch, Nicaragua spent more than half its budget on debt repayment. (OXFAM)
  • In Mozambique, one of four children dies before age five due to infectious disease, yet the government spends four times more on debt servicing than on health care.

The postcard to President Clinton affirms his proposals for debt relief and urges him to expand this initiative. The postcard to Church World Service enables people to order a free copy of the fact sheet "Africa: In Bondage to Debt", order additional Jubilee 2000 lapel chains, and learn about the CWS Tools of Hope program.

Lapel chains can be ordered for $2.50 each, with bulk discounts available, from Church World Service, 28606 Phillips St., P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Orders of $10 or more can be called in to 800-297-1516, ext. 222. Ordering information is also available through the CWS Web site at www.churchworldservice.org .

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