Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Archive for November 2009

For those of you who missed it we have just had  National Interfaith Week and “Islam Awareness Week

In our region both have been celebrated in great style with colourful and most enjoyable presentations, many organised by West Midlands Faith Forum.

I was able to attend several of the events and was particularly pleased to see young people taking part in such colourful and imaginative ways demonstrating their faith and culture.

My own involvement came through the launch of a new project from Jubilee Debt Campaign – Global Poverty, Seeking Justice: People of Faith in Action This national project, based in Birmingham, will focus on raising awareness amongst all faith groups on the ways we can work together for the common good and in particular the cancellation of international debts.

Our launch event took place at the Bordesley Centre when 120 supporters from the six main faith groups of the city, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Moslem and Sikh.
It was clear from the songs,music and presentations how each faith has at its core so many shared concerns for the poor and the injustice of debt repayments. Wonderful news for me because I know dropping the debt, works!

If you want some examples – teacher numbers doubled in three years in Tanzania, primary school fees were abolished in Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia and in rural areas of Benin. Bolivia and Mauritania. There is improving healthcare, greatly reducing infant and maternal mortality rates in many more poor countries. All this progress because of debt cancellation.

With all faith groups working together I am sure we can benefit in many ways and achieve greater understand at many level. I have already found lots of co workers and friends through being involved.
Something reflected so well in the flyer and poster that are part of the promotion material.

Now we have to find the funds to take forward our plans for a Multifaith conference in the Spring and other educational schemes that will give every faith group an opportunity to bring about positive outcomes for the greater good of all not just in  campaigners in Birmingham but across the region and then to be copied by other UK Jubilee campaign groups. But the real benefit will be the indebted countries having their own money to spend on health and education projects instead of sending it to the rich countries in debt repayment.

Birmingham born Stephen Rand Co- Chair of Jubilee Debt Campaign shares his thoughts on news of our latest Jubilee multifaith project

Stephen randOn Wednesday 18 November, at the heart of the national Inter Faith Week, Jubilee Debt Campaign will launch GLOBAL POVERTY, SEEKING JUSTICE – PEOPLE OF FAITH IN ACTION. This national project, based in Birmingham, will focus on building awareness and encouraging action on global poverty, with a particular focus on the issue of poor country debt.

I think this is a really significant initiative. There is a desperate need for further action on debt and global poverty. Faith communities and organisations have already played a vital role in the campaign; it’s time to build on past activities and engagement and together – in and through our faith communities, locally and nationally – raise awareness of the issues and speak out for justice.

The media often highlights the moments and places where religion is cause of division. That’s why I’m glad to be associated with something that sees people of different faiths recognising the common bond of humanity and the shared desire to combat poverty and seek justice.

We don’t have to compromise anything we believe in order to act together for the greater good; in fact the opposite is true. If people truly believe, seeking justice and caring about poverty and people who are poor is the highest priority.

The steering group for the project, which I chair, has representatives from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities. Salma Hamid is a member of the group, the Birmingham Coordinator for Islam Awareness Week, which shares the dates of Inter Faith Week. She says, “The theme for Islam Awareness Week 2009 is ‘Walk the Talk,’ about recognising our common humanity, celebrating our diversity and respecting each other. The Jubilee Debt campaign initiative is a great way to build links and get people to work together for the common good.”

Ever since 70,000 people formed a human chain around Birmingham in 1998, urging the G8 leaders to ‘Drop the Debt’, Birmingham – with its rich diversity of faith groups – has played a key role in the campaign. It makes me proud to be a Brummie!

The launch of the multi-faith project will be part of a meeting for Inter Faith Week to be held in The Bordesley Centre, Birmingham, at which representatives from the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh communities will show how they are engaged with issues of world poverty.

I have no doubt that the campaign to Drop the Debt is one of the most significant global people movements in history. Much has been achieved – but much remains to be done. At a time of global economic crisis, people of faith taking action together to seek justice demonstrates that our common values can bring people together to make a difference on global poverty.

In those moments of bleak depression when campaigners wonder if politicians ever listen, I do debate  if its all a waste of time and then something like this from local MP Richard Burdon comes into my inbox and I give a huge cheer and my faith is restored. We are getting our message across to some.

“Lots of constituents have been in touch to let me know they support the campaign to ‘End the vulture culture‘ led by the Jubilee Debt Campaign. The campaign is calling for regulation of vulture funds to prevent them buying up the defaulted debts of poor countries and then sueing those countries for full repayment plus costs.It is internationally recognised that the debt burden of the poorest, most indebted poor countries has to be tackled if they are to set themselves on the path of sustainable growth, development and poverty reduction. The UK government has taken a lead role on debt relief over the last 12 years. It is important that the real progress that has been made goes towards reducing poverty in developing countries, not lost into the pockets of wealthy investors.

Earlier this year I signed a parliamentary motion calling on the government to regulate vulture funds and raised the issue directly with government ministers. Replying to my letter, the Treasury Minister Ian Pearson explained that the government is also concerned about these so-called vulture funds . He told me that the government thoroughly deplores the funds and has taken a leading role in combating the damage caused by their activities – by preventing debts from falling into the hands of such funds and helping countries to defend themselves.”

Richard Burdon MP

Now we wait to see if another local MP for Dudley  – Ian Pearson will respond to the thousands of  petition signings and letters he has received via the Treasury to take  the final  steps necessary. to outlaw the  vulture fund process.

This Black Country MP  and Treasury Minister Ian Pearson is in charge of taking the  all important decision about whether to turn the proposed new law into a priority for the next parliamentary session, by putting it into the Queen’s Speech on 18 November.

I await to see if  they did get the message or will I be going back into  despair of politicians ability to  listen to the plea for justice.

Audrey Miller


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