The Council of Churches in The Netherlands (Raad van Kerken in Nederland) has declared in a recent letter to political parties that the nation should cancel "unpayable" debts owed it by the world's poorest countries.

Published as political parties draw up their policies for next year's general elections, the letter called on politicians to do more to ease the debt of developing nations to enable them to fund basic social services such as education and health care.

Although commending the Dutch government administration for its "active policy with regard to easing the debt burden of the poorest countries," the inter-church body argued that "more is possible."

The council is the nation's biggest ecumenical organization, with a membership of 17 churches, including Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The letter, signed earlier this month by the council's general secretary, Ineke Bakker, addressed a range of other social concerns, including a new law on foreigners. The council called for access to basic social services for asylum-seekers.

The council also asked political parties to address issues such as homelessness, global economics and ecology, saying that the "unfettered self-enrichment" in some parts of society was undermining the country's social cohesion.

"It cannot be that, in the opposition between economic and ecological interests, the latter continually loses out," the letter stated. "Values such as justice, solidarity and protection of the weakest are, according to Christian tradition, of great importance for the quality of society."

The council's letter coincides with a national debate about the churches' role in politics. In a newspaper interview in early March, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in The ...

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