Catholic bishops have joined leaders from other faith communities in calling on the UK Government to help cancel debts of the world’s poorest countries.
In an open letter, faith leaders appealed for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to show “leadership” on the issue of debt cancellation when meeting G20 finance ministers this week.
The seventy-seven signatories included four Catholic bishops: Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Bishop John Arnold of Salford, Bishop William Nolan of Galloway, and Bishop Joseph Toal of Motherwell. Other signatories included Dr Rowan Williams, former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, and Fr Damian Howard, provincial of the Jesuits in Britain. Heads of charities that helped coordinate the appeal, including CAFOD, SCIAF and Christian Aid, also signed the letter.
The letter argued that the G20 must introduce new debt relief measures for third world countries, particularly given the social and economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is a critical and rapid means of ensuring that health workers in developing countries have the best chance of helping to defeat the coronavirus and that countries have the resources at hand to build back from the economic devastation the pandemic has wreaked – including by assisting communities already being hit by the effects of the climate crisis,” the letter read.
“The immediate risks the coronavirus poses to poverty reduction efforts are both clear and shocking. In total, the World Bank estimates that between 71-100 million people risk falling into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The World Food Programme forecasts that around 270 million people around the world will face acute food insecurity by the end of this year, a doubling of the approximately 130 million who suffered severe food shortages last year. The International Labour Organization predicts that up to 340 million jobs could be lost.”
In April, G20 finance ministers responded to this situation by following the IMF and World Bank in placing a moratorium on third world debt payments. However, Jubilee USA and other debt relief organizations responded to the suspension by calling for world leaders to further pursue a “cancellation of all external debt payments due to be made in 2020”.
The letter published this Sunday echoed these appeals in insisting that the G20 now “cancel, rather than merely suspend bilateral debt payments,” adding that finance ministers should also “urge the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and private creditors to cancel debt payments owed in 2020 and 2021 by these countries.”
The letter noted that the Urbi et Orbi address of Pope Francis earlier this year had also called on world leaders to lift the debt “burdening the balance sheet of the poorest nations” because it was unjust “to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples.”
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