People in the pews can make a difference, say the supporters of an international religious movement for debt relief that recently won a major victory in Congress.

Most people doubt that letters, phone calls, and visits from a handful of constituents can tip the scales in a bid to get congressional support for legislation.

But that is just what happened in October, observers say, when Congress passed a foreign-operations spending bill that includes $435 million toward debt relief for the world's poorest nations. President Clinton recently signed the bill into law.

The Jubilee 2000 campaign is inspired by the Old Testament concept of "jubilee" (Lev. 25:11), in which God instructed the Israelites to forgive debts and set slaves free every 50 years.

Bread for the World, one of dozens of supporting organizations, said the real story behind the movement's success "is the important role churches and individuals have played." According to Jubilee 2000 supporters, rock singer Bono of U2 prompted the support of the conservative Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C.

Helms told The Hill newspaper that he was deeply impressed by his meeting with Bono on the issue.

Helms told the Irish rock star: "If I can find some way that the Lord would show me how to really help these people, I'd quit the Senate and try to do it."

Related Elsewhere

Visit the Jubilee 2000 USA pages.

Read the Ecumenical Coalition for Economic Justice's report on the principles behind Jubilee debt relief.

Recent stories about Jubilee 2000 include:

Faith-based protest of debt policies will add its voiceSeattle Times (Nov. 28, 2000)

Looking into the details of debt relief for the poorest—Earth Times (Nov. 28, 2000)

Candle lit for debt relief's unfinished businessThe Guardian (Nov. 27, 2000)

U2's Bono Says Guilt Keeps Him Fighting for Poor—Associated Press (Nov. 25, 2000)

Clinton Praises Bono—BBC (Nov. 7, 2000)

Clinton celebrates decision to forgive some debts of poor countries—CNN (Nov. 6, 2000)

Clinton Signs Foreign Aid Bill—Associated Press (Nov. 6, 2000)

Debt Cancellation Vital to Aids War—News 24 (Oct. 17, 2000)

Previous Christianity Today stories include:

Crushing Debt | Third World debt is as vicious as the slave trade. (June 8, 2000)

Debt Cancellation a Question of 'Justice', Kenya's Anglican Archbishop Tells Japan | Tokyo skeptical toward Jubilee 2000 message (April 19, 2000)

Poor Nations Get Debt Relief | After Congress passes Jubilee 2000 legislation, campaign rolls onward. (Jan. 4, 2000)

Churches Seek Debt Cancellation | (Oct. 5, 1998)

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