children will die!
"Action on global debt. The highly indebted poor countries need debt relief now – not at some indeterminate point in the future...The meager financial costs contrast with the appalling human costs of inaction. The Group of Seven and the Bretton Woods institutions should aim to end the debt crisis for the poorest countries by 2000....Relieved of their annual debt repayments, the severely indebted countries could use the funds for investments that in Africa alone would save the lives of about 21 million children by 2000 and provide 90 million girls and women with access to basic education."With a statement like this, along with color photographs of dying children, shown on the website of Jubilee 2000 USA, how in the world could anyone, especially Christians, not agree with the cause to save these lives. Well, there must be a second question: Will the cause save these lives–any of these lives, or, might the cause actually result in more death and destruction?
Recall the old saying "don't just stand there, do something, even if its wrong, do something!" This adage is rarely a good reason to support a cause, and it's actually dangerous–in that what you do in haste and without precautions could actually do more harm than good.
This "hurry up and do something, anything" quandary surrounds the problem of huge debts owed internationally by dozens of the poorest nations. As much as we'd all sacrifice any amount of our own worldly possessions to save the lives of children worldwide, the most important thing is NOT whether or not we have good intentions, but rather the important thing is that we accomplish something worthy.
We should not be guilty of supporting a ministry of good intentions that serves no real purpose but to make us "fortunate people" (the giving people, the caring people) simply feel better about ourselves. In other words, we shouldn't be backing a ministry of good intentions that is simply a ministry for ourselves, for our feelings, for our own need to feel worthy.
If you haven't heard already about the quasi-religious, quasi-political campaign called Jubilee 2000–a concept to aid the indebtedness of the poorest countries in the world–then you've missed one of the most complex attempts at benevolence worldwide that I've ever seen.
On the surface, Jubilee 2000 seems pretty straight-forward: There are several dozen very poor nations around the world who are in debt to various industrialized countries and also to organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and other international agencies.
The amount of debt owed by the poorest nations, collectively, is in the order of $400 billion, which looks like this: $400,000,000,000.00
The amount of the debt that is directly owed to the U.S. is a small portion of the total, whereas large sums are owed to the IMF and World Bank. We must not be naïve and think that the IMF and World Bank could forgive loans out of thin air–of course the major industrialized countries of the world (principally the U.S., of course), would have to make up for the losses.
However, even this huge sum of $400 billion is not beyond the reach of the U.S. all by itself, since we're now looking at budget surpluses of trillions of dollars in the U.S. over the next decade. So, for sake of demonstration, let's assume that the U.S. ended up with the responsibility to make up for all of this debt (and it's not a far stretch to think that it would end up in the lap of the U.S. given the size of our economy compared to the total sum of the rest of the world).
So, let's bring this debt to a personal level for U.S. citizens. If, for sake of argument, 100% of the debt were to be covered by the American population, then that $400 billion would amount to about $1,500 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. We know that if Jubilee 2000 is to succeed, it depends on the American people to make it happen. So, if the U.S. is going to spearhead the effort to forgive world-wide debt of poor nations, it's essentially the American people who bear the responsibility for deciding the "right thing to do" and that means that there is a responsibility equivalent to $6,000 per family of four in this decision-making process.
Every American should consider their vote wisely on this issue. This is NOT about deciding whether to skip three ice cream Sundaes over the next three years (as the Jubilee 2000 campaign posits on their website), rather this is about the life and death consequences of over 19,000 children apparently dying every day, and if the decision as to how to forgive debt is taken lightly (like deciding whether or not to buy an ice cream treat), then we're playing light-hearted games with the lives of countless people worldwide. No, this matter deserves more seriousness than buying an ice cream treat. Rather, we must be confident that the debt forgiveness procedures include adequate process to ensure that the people in need receive the benefit, and not those few people in control of the poor nations' governments. In contrast, the ministry of good intentions is of no use to any poor deserving children, but rather it benefits the few zealots who organize the programs and make their living off of other peoples' compassion, and such zealots care not if the compassion is misplaced.
This Jubilee 2000 organization is of particular interest to members of several protestant churches, and especially important to United Methodists as their various boards and agencies are supporting Jubilee 2000 with their time and resources (which are paid from apportionments obtained from every UMC member).
The UMC involvement in Jubilee 2000 goes back to 1997 and earlier, and continues through to the present. Jubilee 2000 has involved itself in the massive protest fiasco in Seattle last year, and the protest in Washington D.C. this past April, and in Prague just days ago.
Here's an article from the United Methodist News Service from one year ago:
World Methodist Council
calls for debt forgiveness
HONG KONG (UMNS) – The World Methodist Council has added its voice to those demanding debt forgiveness for impoverished countries as the new millennium approaches.The following UMNS article reports the UMC involvement in the Seattle 1999 riots:
Message overrides rubber
bullets at WTO event in Seattle
Pamela Sparr had to avoid tear gas and rubber bullets shot by Seattle police to reach her hotel after attending a Nov. 30 event related to the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.The following UMNS article announces the resources that the UMC had thrown behind this Jubilee 2000 campaign for the April 2000 protest march in Washington D.C.
April 9  rally to
focus on debt relief
United Methodists are being encouraged to join others in a human chain around the U.S. Capitol on April 9 to call for the cancellation of all debts owed by poor countries.The latest protest on behalf of debt forgiveness was just last week in Prague, as we read from this news article:
power fuels Prague protests
Europe has had its first taste of the Web's destructive efficiency in mobilizing international popular protest, as the beautiful Czech capital of Prague, hosting the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting, was besieged this week by thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators, many brought together by Web sites.Clearly, the objective of debt forgiveness is to assist the poor nations in improving living standards. So, if you, an American citizen, were inclined to want to help the poor nations, and if your hypothetical share of the $400 billion that is owed amounted to $6,000 for your family of four, you would want to make sure that your money went to the needy citizens of these poor nations, rather than into the pockets of the corrupt government officials in these nations.
Let's take a look at how Jubilee 2000/USA defines their objective (from their program statement):
The Biblical tradition calls for a Jubilee year, when slaves are set free and debts cancelled. As the new millennium approaches, we are faced with a particularly significant time for such a Jubilee. Many impoverished countries carry such high levels of debt that economic development is stifled and scarce resources are diverted from health care, education, and other socially beneficial programs to make debt service payments. Much of the debt they carry is the result of ill-conceived development, flawed policies that creditors required of recipient countries in exchange for assistance, and shortsighted decisions of their own leaders. Much of the borrowing benefited only elites in receiving countries, whereas the burden of paying the debt is falling upon the most impoverished members of society.So, we see that Jubilee 2000 wants to ensure that corrupt leaders in these poor nations don't grab all the money that results from this debt forgiveness. And the IMF, World Bank, and most of the industrialized nations are showing signs of moving toward debt forgiveness, and so they have developed criteria that poor nations must meet in order to demonstrate that corrupt leaders won't use this opportunity as a money grab. They say it this way on the Jubilee 2000 website:
Debt cancellation can begin to be implemented in a country that is still facing problems of corruption and lack of openness in decision-making –provided that the debt relief process itself helps foster greater oversight of government decision-making.As you might expect, the leaders of these poor nations are not very rapid in giving up their control over their own citizens in order to gain the debt forgiveness; this is not surprising. If a corrupt leader had two choices: first, to give up control in order to save the lives of their citizens, which would leave the leader without the greatness and grandeur that they have enjoyed, compared to a second choice of maintaining status quo control and continuing to dominate their citizens, wouldn't you expect the corrupt leader to opt to maintain control?
The following article from this week shows the current dismay of Jubilee 2000 with the efforts of the world economic forces (notice the paltry amount of money that is being offered by the Clinton Administration in comparison to the huge $400 billion debt–that's billion, not million):
U2's Bono, Pat Robertson Urge Debt Relief
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sitting around a table with rock star Bono and Christian conservative leader Pat Robertson, President Clinton made a plea on Monday for Congress to approve $435 million to cut the debt of the poorest countries.I guess this seemingly simple action of forgiving debt is a little more complicated that we may have hoped. You know, Americans are famous for the notion that if you have enough money, you can simply snap your fingers and make nearly anything happen in a brief period of time.
For some added complexity to the issue, here's just a very brief excerpt from this week's article from a British news source:
Reducing poverty - or so much PR?
John Madeley and Faisal Islam
Stung by global criticism, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have embarked on a public relations campaign over the past few months, claiming that reducing poverty is now at the heart of their strategies. But critics say any change is cosmetic.Now wait a minute! All along here, we've been reading about how Jubilee 2000 is pushing for debt forgiveness, but now, the above article seems to indicate that even if debts are forgiven, that Jubilee 2000 isn't satisfied with simply that objective. What's the deal?
So, just what is the objective of Jubilee 2000? On the surface, for years Jubilee 2000 has called for the forgiveness of debts, but now (in just the past several months) the IMF and World Bank, who have been so "beat up" by Jubilee 2000 has acquiesced to a program of forgiveness of debts, and has set up a method of ensuring that the poor citizens get the benefit and not corrupt leaders, and so what does Jubilee 2000 say now? To quote from the above they "say that focus is too narrow. They want more stress on reform of the entire international economic system to make it fairer to the developing nations."
So now we're beginning to be able to see the hidden agenda of Jubilee 2000! This debt forgiveness was just the perfect facade to put on in order to get people's compassion on their side. The REAL agenda is an effort to counteract what is commonly being called globalization. In just a few words, what groups like Jubilee 2000 and environmentalists see wrong with globalization is that it's a system of free enterprise with little "government" control.
In an old article from UMNS of June 26, 1997, (a UMC public introduction of Jubilee 2000) the following was included:
This [Jubilee 2000] grassroots campaign of debt relief for impoverished nations had been launched earlier in other major creditor countries. Its first phase is a petition campaign for debt forgiveness, an idea found in the Old Testament.What I find so very interesting is that this second phase is not mentioned anywhere on the Jubilee 2000 website, and as a matter of fact, I find no hint of this second phase in any writings about Jubilee 2000, anywhere, other than the above. What has happened to this Moral Imperative phase of this organization?
Well, I think that with the above evidence, it looks very convincing that the debt forgiveness is NOT an end unto itself for this Jubilee 2000, rather this debt forgiveness is the means to an end. This debt forgiveness is only an entrée–a means to get their foot in the door in order to accomplish a greater objective (a greater "good" in their opinion, no doubt).
It appears to me that this Jubilee 2000 is an organization that desires to control the economic systems in poor nations of the world, and that requires working toward a global police force. Of course they have valid humanitarian objectives of alleviating oppression of citizens by corrupt government, but let's not forget that the overriding principle of socialism also appears as basically a humanitarian effort.
Yes, it's the ulterior motivations that would come after or along with the debt relief that are the questions that must be asked of Jubilee 2000. I would suspect that it's a utopian ideal of a democracy of and for the people, as long as the people of the poor nation agree to submit to the objectives of the global police force. For example, if the people of the poor nation vote for a candidate who promises to invite an American company to build a factory in their nation, which would result in great economic improvement for the citizens and the poor nation as a whole, but if the factory was not environmentally friendly enough or if the company wouldn't pay high enough wages to the workers, then the global police force would probably overrule the votes of the citizens and say that the poor nation will not be allowed to invite that company to their country. So, what would be the result of such a scenario? In all likelihood, the American company would NOT negotiate with the global police, but rather the company would set up its factory in a different third world nation–one that isn't controlled by the global police force.
Let me emphasize one important point, the socialist and environmental zealousness of Jubilee 2000 does NOT diminish the significance of the problems that they have brought to the forefront. In other words, debt forgiveness as an incentive to poor nations' leaders to "clean up their act" which can improve conditions for the citizens, and encourage democracy in those nations, is consistent with U.S. policy. However, let us not forget that a basic principle upon which the U.S. is founded is the freedom and autonomy from outside oppression. Developing nations through debt relief could be given the opportunity for a new start, a start with free elections and democracy, but the new start must include the freedom to determine their own destiny, rather than oppressive control from a global police force.
Here's a demonstration how a creditor nation can exert complete control over the debtor country's actions:
Tanzania is one of several countries to establish a Debt Relief Fund. Currently, donor nations pay some of Tanzania's debt service payments and the government puts matching money into the fund, which is dispersed under a National Debt Strategy for education, health, water, infrastructure and agriculture. The fund is audited and monitored every two months by a joint committee of donors, creditors, government, parliament, NGOs, business and the media.Can you believe that? The media even gets the opportunity to ride rough-shot over the poor debtor nation.
Again, sounds good from the point of view of an American citizen–it's how we'd spend the money; but, there's no question that we're not really providing money (by forgiving debt payments) as what we're doing is buying each of these nations. This is the crux of the "one world government" thinkers (like Jubilee 2000), the majority of whom are from America, the one country in the world which can actually accomplish a global police force.
Jubilee 2000 and so many other radical organizations which are pushing against the IMF and the WTO are said to be anti-globalization, and so you might think that they believe in the autonomy of individual nations–you couldn't be more wrong! These organizations have as their objective, to control ALL nations of the world, and the easiest ones to knock off first are of course the weakest ones–the poor nations. So, they set out with a noble cause on the surface of helping the poor, but with an ulterior motive of garnering control of the poor nation through a method of blackmail, using the debt as the hostage. Obviously, these organizations are PRO-globalization, as long as the globalization is in the form of a global police force and NOT in the form of global free enterprise.
It is so utterly ironic that their organized effort against global free enterprise is termed the "worldwide movement against globalization" (a bit of an oxymoron, I'd say). Thus even from their own label you can see that worldwide control is just fine, as long as it's THEIR definition of worldwide control.
Let's turn for a moment from the radical socialists' point of view of globalization, and take a brief look at a capitalist's view, surprisingly written in the mainstream media:
The Sacramento Bee newspaper
For the third time in less than a year, anti-globalization protesters have gone into the streets trying to disrupt the work of the economic institutions they hold responsible for gross inequities between rich and poor. [Certainly the usual "class warfare" opening of a liberal journalist.][Get ready, here it comes, a black-and-white statement from the same journalist who above made more than one typical liberal criticism of capitalism]
. . . a fundamental fact: Whatever its defects, globalization has been and is likely to remain the most potent force in improving the lot of the world's poor people. Reinforcing that message, while promoting development in ways that ensure that those left behind by rapid globalization can begin to catch up, is imperative.And next from a capitalist's own mouth:
Among some government officials and certain members of the financial press, the idea of debt forgiveness is in vogue. Many specious arguments have been made by an assortment of different groups who believe debt forgiveness is the financial panacea that will begin an age of economic growth and prosperity for lesser-developed nations.If you read the information on the Jubilee 2000 website, on the surface this organization really looks schizophrenic; they say that they want debt forgiveness with no strings attached; yet, at the same time, they say that they want to be assured that the poor citizens benefit from the effort; and still, at the same time, they say they want to control the poor countries' governments to ensure that their concept of a proper government is maintained.
Well, after some thorough study and finding the hidden agenda of this Jubilee 2000, we see that it only looks schizophrenic. In actuality, it's a very calculating, focused organization with an ulterior motive.
Skepticism of this website is well founded in that this website quotes all kinds of sources outside of itself, but yet provides almost no links to the websites of the original sources. In the few spots where they quote independent sources, they print only limited excerpts of the other sources' writings rather than providing a link to the original source to allow the reader to discern first-hand the intent of the original source (they did this to the Vatican, and didn't print the insistence by the Vatican about how the debt forgiveness is complicated due to making sure the poor, ordinary citizens benefit).
Another disconcerting aspect of the Jubilee 2000 website is the vast size of the Jubilee 2000/USA website and the amount of stuff that they are selling!
Certainly the little trinkets and small brochure appear to be priced at not much of a profit, but if you look at things like a 25-minute video that they have priced at $10 each, that looks awfully steep (I get unsolicited videos in the mail from mass-marketers, and so you know that mass production of videos is only pennies each, not dollars).
Certainly it's deceitful, and even scary that this Jubilee 2000 organization would put on a false face (exploiting dying children), and espousing the "noble" cause of debt forgiveness simply as a smoke screen to build support for their underlying objective of creating a worldwide system of socialism controlled by a global police force.
However, even more disappointing is that so many protestant churches would leap onto this bandwagon of feel good works of benevolence. There is little or no evidence that the "efforts" of the Jubilee 2000 would truly save children from starving or help poor citizens in these debt-laden nations, and yet, the churches are quick to jump on the feel good wagon, which I'm sorry to say is more an effort to provide an appearance of good intentions, and sadly, in reality, possibly diametrically opposed to actually accomplishing a worthy goal.
So what is the objective of such good intentions? Obviously it is to give citizens of the U.S. a cause to make themselves feel good, and feel as if they're earning their position in God's kingdom. What does Christianity teach?
Christianity teaches that we can no more earn a position in His kingdom than we could cure world hunger simply by sending money to ease our conscience. Our path into His kingdom is through acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Son of Man, our savior, in whom we must put all of our faith and trust. And the only hope for salvation for all the people of the world is this faith in Jesus Christ, and thus our duty is to spend less time lobbying our Congress, and more time supporting missionary efforts to be with the poor people of every one of these debtor nations on a daily basis, in person, to ensure that they receive the gift of eternal life, to which the offer of money pales by comparison.
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