Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Archive for the ‘inspiration’ Category

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


merrynbmp1Merryn Hellier from Hereford a long time Jubilee supporter  makes the link on how debt repayments add to the problems of climate change….

In summer 2007 I walked 1000 miles across Britain with Christian Aid’s Climate Change March. We were publicising the disastrous climate changes already devastating the most poverty stricken areas, and lobbying MPs on our route to demand a much stronger Climate Bill as it went through Parliament.

10 walkers from Britain were joined by 8 Christian Aid partners from across the world. The terrible situations our overseas walkers described had a very profound influence, both on the British walkers, but also on all who heard them at the meetings where we spoke each night on our way down. It is some of these stories that I would like to retell.

p10100061Mohammad came as a very angry young man from Northern Kenya because he knew that climate changing pollution came from the West, while the worst effects came to non-polluting areas like his own. Their weather patterns used to be predictable, but now 70% of his people’s cattle had died through drought, while crops were either washed away in torrential rain or dried up. His work was to develop water harvesting and flood control. Realising that many people were already concerned and campaigning in Britain, he redirected his anger to becoming a brilliant public speaker.

That however, was before our global financial crisis. Kenya is a poor country, over $6 billion in debt, and I know from working in a Kisumu shanty town that life on the edge is very precarious. Kenya’s debt arose in similar ways to those we are experiencing now. The difference is that Western banks received huge bail-outs while poor countries were told to sort themselves out and forced to follow highly damaging measures that made poverty even worse.

Around three decades later they’re still paying out over $200 million every year. Mohammad has every right to become very angry again.

Merryn Hellier.

Birmingham City Council often uses the catch phrase “Global city with a local heart” in a way Birmingham JDC group really live up to the phrase in its very existence.

banner-us-smallThis Jubilee Congregation banner has recently been put on display at Selly Oak Methodist Church. It is American in origin and was given to the group by Jubilee US.

The director of the American campaign Neil Watkins attended the Birmingham University conference in the summer and one of our other regular readers this blog, Paula also from the States  is writing a book about the history of Jubilee movement and often in touch with the Birmingham group.

We have lots of other links around the world many across Africa where the debt problem is particularly acute. News from a Zambian reader received recently illustrates our global links too.

“Zambia started experiencing the effects of the global financial crisis towards the end of last year. Copper, which enjoyed a boom period for almost three years, started plummeting in price from September.

From the high of $8,000 per tonne, the price is now hovering around $3,000 per tonne! The country suspended a number of capital projects in the last quarter of last year.

An unplanned presidential election on 30 October 2008 following the death of the previous President in August 2008 gobbled up a lot of money depleting an already overstretched Treasury”.

All this in Zambia whilst they struggles to tackle vulture funds and its ongoing debt repayments.

January 27th will see some JDC Birmingham supporters going to Westminster to take on MP’s about the vulture funds issue. Details on our National Office website

I am often asked by friends how they can begin to understand the complex issue of international debt. It seems a daunting topic, but now a new resource from Jubilee Debt Campaign makes it accessible and brings it down from high economic theory to an issue of global poverty being caused by power and injustice.

The filming covers some really good news from countries around the world  which have benefited from their debt being dropped and footage of Birmingham demonstrations over the last ten years. The campaign really took off in the city in 1998  with the G8 being surrounded by the human chain of protesters calling on world leaders to “Drop the Debt”.

Now if you were at the ICC 10th anniversary  on May 16th this year you will know that the event was called “Journey to Justice”. This DVD contains extracts from the event plus, interviews and other useful materials.

Over the last ten years thousands of people across the world have travelled a Journey to Justice, demanding that rich countries cancel this unjust and unpayable Debt.

Debts have been cancelled allowing millions more to enjoy free primary schooling and health care, but poor country Debt is still a major problem.

If you want to know more please buy the DVD.

The cast list could have not been more impressive ;- retired Bishop, Cannon, clergy, academics  and other seasoned  debt campaigners all took part in a specially written production this week.mary-and-josephThe script uses the poverty of the first Christmas to link with present day debt in poor countries.



Quotes from the shepherds and kings all make profound links  for example “I feel we are all indebted to one another – for money, for justice, for love. They need to follow a brighter star than self interest.”

And at another point

Christ has no body now on earth but yours;

Yours are the only hands with which to do his work.

Yours are the only feet with which  he can go around the world. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

An inspiring concept for Christians campaigners to follow by showing compassion in this troubled world.

The play written by Elisabeth Leicester  of the Birmingham group you can download your copy.

See also The Stirrer on December 19th.

Jubilee Debt Campaign is actively seeking the support of all faith groups in the city. Over the  last 10 years it has become clear that debt and  poverty reduction in the developing world are issues where faith communities have a shared view.

By concentrating on the things we have in common rather than any differences. JDC is asking leading members of each faith group to set out  their view .

First in this series is one from YANN LOVELOCK

A Buddhist – but a Brummie first.


Birmingham Buddhist Peace Pagola

JDC in Birmingham has been an excellent example of interfaith work and a beacon for other regions.

The whole of the Buddhist religion is based on individual morality, individuals working together in a moral way for the good of the wider community.

This encompasses a balance between compassion and wisdom, founded on generosity.

The Buddha’s era coincided with the beginning of the capitalist system. The Buddha counselled kings on the necessity for economic justice and had bankers as his disciples; some key spiritual metaphors are drawn from banking!

His teaching embraces relationships, eg between husband and wife or within the family or between employer and employee, and these are seen as templates for creating social welfare and harmony. It covers financial responsibility and mutual respect. He criticises miserliness and wants us to realise and act upon the recognition of our interdependence.

Application to debt. It is important to ask: who was lending? To whom? Why? How come governments  allowed this to take place in inappropriate circumstances?

We should not just be cancelling debt but looking to the future and alternative arrangements where this is unlikely to bring relief.

In our interfaith work on debt together we should be thinking about appropriate help to those individuals suffering under terrible regimes; what counts is individuals at either end working together towards a more just and humane world.

Send us your view and contribution from your faith community.

Audrey Miller

The Death of Roi Kwabena, Trinidian writer and cultural activist was announced in January 2008. A supporter of JDC for many years Roi used his poetry to speak and touch many lives not just in the city. This poem has been used in many settings over the last few years and will continue to do so in the Jubilee Movement.

wish we had a father

not only in heaven

but also on earth.

we would forgive

our debtors

and all those who

trespassed against us

the genocides…

the chattel slavery…

the indentureship…

the religious conversion….

the plunder of our antiquities….

the economic deprivation….

the scientific exclusion….

could we expect

our debts to be forgiven

so that we may feed our people

we wont be led into

military aggression

we will uphold the ideal

of tolerance and equality

we will fair trade

all commodities

we will promote sustainability

and protect the earth’s environment

oh! can we expect

our debts to be forgiven

as we adhere to principles

that will beneficial to all of humanity

we the rich-but considered poor nations

of the southern hemisphere…

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This is the blog of the local group of the UK campaign calling for cancellation of international Debt.

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