Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Archive for February 2009

Nirankar Singh Bansal is a member of the Sikh community from the Soho Road Gurudwara who has recently joined the local JDC committee. Here he shares why compassion with others and consequently the debt campaigns are important to his community.

The foundation of Faith As Sikhs we are taught that Dharam – ones self-acknowledged moral duty is underpinned by daya – compassion. You may often hear Sikhs refer to their tradition as the Sikh dharam or Sikhi as opposed to the western name Sikhism. The suffix ism denotes a set of beliefs/theories that guide a specific group of people where as dharam, rather than just being a set of theological beliefs ties the belief system with the moral duty a Sikh is never to compromise.

Without compassion a Sikh will be defective in his/her attempt to practice Sikhi. Qualities such as love, humility, selflessness, respect are all rooted in compassion and are common to all faiths. However whether an individual practices a faith or not these qualities should be an integral part of the human psyche. The quality of compassion reminds me of the story of Bhai Kanhaiya Ji.

Bhai Kanhaiya Ji came from a wealthy family but was always spiritually inclined so put less emphasis on his material belongings. Leaving home at a young age he travelled a lot spending time with various Saddhus and mystics in search of spiritual peace. His quest ended when he met the ninth Sikh guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji (1621-75) and was initiated as a Sikh.

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Kanhaiya as a young boy in his search for spiritual peace

At the battle of Anandpur in 1704 Bhai Kanhaiya Ji was seen giving water to soldiers on the battlefield, the Sikh soldiers noticed that he was also giving water to the enemy soldiers who would get back up and start fighting again. Annoyed at this the Sikhs went to tell the guru, hearing the news Guru Gobind Singh summoned Bhai Kanhaiya to his darbar – court. When questioned he admitted to giving water on the battlefield but said he didn’t differentiate between friend and foe. As per the Guru’s teachings he said that he recognised the light of God in all and didn’t see whether they were Sikh or Mughal soldiers. Pleased with his Sikh’s answer Guru Gobind Singh openly commended Bhai Kanhaiya for his understanding of Sikh dharam and the teaching of the Gurus.

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The Guru told all the Sikh soldiers that as long as a Mughal soldier was fighting against justice and truth they were an enemy but as soon as the soldier fell wounded he was no longer an enemy. As a wounded soldier he deserved the same treatment as a wounded Sikh soldier. Guru Gobind Singh gave Bhai Kanhaiya some bandages and ointment and instructed him to see to the soldiers injuries as well as give them water.

This story is a practical and loving reminder that as humans as well as being capable of sharing in another’s happiness we should feel their pain only then can we commit ourselves to helping others.

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Put People First
On 28th March thousands will march through London as part of a global campaign to challenge the G20, ahead of their 2nd April summit on the global financial crisis.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign is part of a major coalition of development and environmental groups plus faith groups and trade unions, who will be joining together to campaign for just, fair and sustainable policies.

See the Put People First website for more details and up-to-date news about the event.

The JDC Birmingham group will be booking a coach to take a group of campaigners down to London for 28th March. If you’d like to book a space on the coach please contact Ruth Tetlow ruthtetlow@btinternet.com. Please spread the word among friends, family and colleagues.

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Merryn shows how changing economics could offer a positive way for the Worlds Poor.

I was enjoying a walk round my favourite local lanes when it suddenly struck me that despite the gloom of global finances, we really are living in very exciting times.

Well, having spent so much time and effort walking up and down our country, joining demonstrations in London and elsewhere, or writing bits for newspapers and magazines, hoping to raise awareness and political action on behalf of the worlds poor, I realised that a way might finally have been opened to get the fragility and corruption behind the global money systems back into Pandora’s box. At last the power and control enjoyed by those who grabbed the world’s wealth for themselves instead of holding it in trust for the whole of God’s people, has been made manifest and toppled. So why are these exciting times?

The biggest reason is that the floodgates have been opened. During the last decade there has been a huge groundswell in the millions of people calling for both a cancellation of the unjust and unpayable poor country debts, and a better deal for all their people. Up until now these calls have been kept at bay by the rich nations, but now we can see things under a new light, and the desperate injustice under which they struggle looks different. Poor countries were not allowed to go bankrupt or receive any help unless they went through years of punishing adjustments which left them ruined. A quarter of a century later Western banks are still receiving $100 million every day from them. For every $1 sent for aid, $5 are returned for debt servicing. Today rich country banks get huge bail-outs and still expect bonuses for those who betrayed us. The ordinary people are so sickened by all this that the way is now laid open for a deep and serious global re-think about the way it is organised. At last we could be listened to and taken seriously.

And this is where your church or faith group and hopefully thousands of others like us come in. The Jubilee Debt Campaign is offering an opportunity for congregations everywhere to stand up and declare that enough is enough for those condemned to grinding poverty. We want a world where all can live in dignity, where the gulf between the obscenely rich and desperately poor is filled in forever. To do this you are invited to become a Jubilee Congregation

A standing room only meeting in Committee Room 15 heard speakers from USA and UK offer legal ways of controlling Vulture houses-of-parliamentFund activity. We heard Adam Smith said “ The criterion for a successful market is Transparency”. Vulture funds thrive on the anonymity of Directors operating from secrecy jurisdictions (Tax Havens). Enforced exposure through international legislation and refusal to allow UK and USA courts to be used for their actions, against the poorest countries, will destroy them. We must ensure this legislation to eliminate Vulture funds preying on the poorest.

Currently Vulture Funds may be set up secretly by one director to pursue a debtor state and to operate from any one of the many secrecy jurisdictions, as with Donegal International based in British Virgin Islands eventually revealed as directed by a Mr Steen. BVI operates through UK courts and Steen used them to profiteer from his court actions against Zambia for debts which, through HIPC ,had already been renegotiated with the other creditors and cancelled. This case has alerted campaigning groups and on August 1st 2008 the ‘ Stop the Vulture Funds Act’ was introduced in USA Senate. If passed this will cap amounts reclaimed, to the sum actually paid for the debt + 6% per annum Interest; it will enforce disclosures on Directors names and locations and certification that no bribes were paid for collusion.

Legislation is possible here; tax payers will no longer have to give tax relief to Banks on such debt repayments. Exposure of identities of the Vulture Fund directors and transparent dealing with international financial institutions could undermine the capacity of these extortionists to profiteer at the expense of the poorest. Three action points for MPs are given in “Time to tame the Vultures” JDC Jan 2009. ‘We can do this; so write to your MP asking them to support this legislation!


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