Crushing Debt

Third World debt is as vicious as the slave trade.
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When marchers took to the streets in Washington, D.C., last month to protest the annual meeting of the World Bank, the media predictably drew attention to the most radical protesters: unionists who oppose free trade, militant environmentalists like the Green Party, and human-rights activists who oppose economic globalization. News cameras focused on activists who tangled with D.C. cops or who tied themselves together with chains and pipes, forming human barricades against World Bank members on the way to meetings. Lost in the din of this protest was a quieter, peaceful, and largely Christian campaign called Jubilee 2000. The coalition encourages wealthy Western nations and international lending institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to forgive hundreds of billions of dollars of debts owed by more than 40 of the world's poorest countries. The campaign draws its biblical inspiration from the Year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25), which challenged the nation of Israel to remit the debts of debtors, set prisoners free, and return land to its original owners every 50 years (cf. Luke 4:18ff., Isa. 61:1–2). Pope John Paul II is a chief supporter of this debt-forgiveness effort; Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, and others have supported it as well. Both supporters and critics of Jubilee 2000 rightly point out that many of these loans went to rogue regimes—dictators who used the resources to line their own pockets, to buy military hardware, or to otherwise enhance their power. To simply wipe out these loans, critics of Jubilee 2000 suggest, would set a bad precedent. But it's also true that during the Cold War the West used these loans to buy the support of Third World countries. Both the lenders and the debtors ...

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