Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

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 Clipboard03Jubilee Room Houses of Parliament.

Some 80 or so MPs and campaigners were present. It was the fifteenth anniversary of Jubilee Debt Campaign (formerly Jubilee 2000)

Peter Price, Bishop of Bath and Wells, saw JDC as a movement of ordinary people. He recalled Bill Peters who had the original idea and was at time the chair of USPG while he Peter was the General Secretary. Bill had asked him for £1,000 to get the idea off the ground. Though they were sort of men, they agreed. Bill, together with Martin Dent, got the vision going. The change had come about through grass-roots action, from the bottom up. “When debts are remitted, lives are changed.” New life had been made possible thanks to the people, faith leaders and parliament.

Bhai Mohinder Singh from the Sikh Community recalled how the Sikh Scriptures spoke of there being one God and the human race being one large family; God abhors our exploiting other human beings – our own kith and kin. The different faiths could agree about the millennium goals and about the principles of compassion and love. His Sikh community held continuous days of prayer for peace and prosperity for all. A global infrastructure was required, and a just and fair financial system. There should be responsible lending and borrowing, with a proper debt work-out mechanism. He had been delighted to sign the faith leaders’ letter. There were enough resources in the world as long as people were not greedy. It was greed that led to financial crises.

Rabbi Sybil Sheridan from The Movement for Reform Judaism referred to the book of Leviticus chapter 25 verse 10 by which, in the year of Jubilee every 50 years, liberty was ensured for everyone in the land. People’s ancestral lands which might have been sold to others were then restored to them. Wealth then was seen not so much as a wealth but as a gift from God, with corresponding responsibilities to take care of the widows, the orphans and the strangers; neighbours who had become slaves were to have their liberty bought back. The same principle should be followed today through the development of some sort of international bankruptcy procedure by which indebted nations could have their situations resolved.

The Revd Dr Mark Wakelin, President of the Methodist Conference, said that organisations like JDC encouraged us to change our narrative so that politicians could change the world.

Trisha Rogers, a past Director of JDC and Vice Chair of the British Humanist Association felt honoured to be present. Humanist values, she said, included thinking for oneself with reason, empathy and compassion, respect for the individual, democracy and cooperation. Unfortunately international debt was not subject to the safeguards that applied to lending within the UK where judges could overrule repayment conditions that were unfair; international loans were often to the advantage of the lender and the conditions unreasonable

Nick Dearden, current Director of JDC, spoke of the success of JDC over the years in putting pressure on the G8 and holding governments to account. The most important change had not in fact been the $130 debt relief achieved but rather the change in values – the principle that debt should not always be repaid, irrespective of circumstances or consequences. That was still relevant for another generation since we now had a debt crisis on our own doorstep, with the worst features of the Latin American experience applied to Europe. It was not acceptable for the poorest to be paying the price of the errors of the rich. Justice required not just a one-off cancellation of debt but, in the pattern of the biblical Jubilee, a continuous process within the world economy. A spiritual renewal was needed, the equivalent today of the abolition of slavery, something once thought utopian but which actually happened. We needed to think the impossible and embark on a major fight against soaring inequality and deep levels of world poverty. He expressed his thanks for the past and looked forward to further cooperation in the future.

John Nightingale


In an article in the Guardian of 9th October John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, calls for a new Jubilee.


He points out that today the poorest in our society – in the richer nations as well as the poorer – are suffering the most from a financial crisis caused for the most part by the greed and speculation of the wealthy. He argues that a new Jubilee today requires lenders and borrowers jointly to share risk so that the burden of debt is shared

Second, governments should reckon to raise funds not just by borrowing but progressive taxes, including those for companies and investors. Thirdly there must be rules for financial markets to work better. Regulation of capital flows should help to shift money from being a means of speculation to that of exchanging goods.

Points that are covered in jubilee for Justice

Add you support and read the article  in full

Rev John Nightingale Chairman of Jubilee Debt campaign Birmingham group


International debt week.
October 8th – 15th is International Debt Week. A moment when campaigners around the world can reflect on the global poor country debt situation.
It is all to easy to perhaps think there is, nothing I can do about such a huge problem.This was certainly the view of some when we began the campaign here in the Midlands.
Dr Martin Dent at Keele University played a key role but the seminal moment was in 1998 when a “Human Chain” was formed around the G8 leaders at the Birmingham summit. 100,000 people coming together in such a peaceful and purpose way.That began the focus of a huge number of people from all faiths and none.
Now in this International Debt week JDC can tell everyone that $130 billions of debt has been cancelled for 34 countries. That means children in school, vaccines given and the fight against poverty begun across the world. We have done something at least. But we fully realise its not enough and have to involve more and more people in the campaign.
It is encouraging that the Jubilee Debt has now become a global movement particular strong in USA where they have special events in the coming Jubilee weekend.
Jewish Christians and Muslims all taking part in the actions.
Here in the UK we will be focussing on getting more Faith Leaders to sign the letter ( 253 so far)to PM. Across the country the Jubilee for Justice petition and the paper chains grow every day .

Now we need to reflect on new ways to take the message to new generation of campaigners seeking Jubilee for Justice in 2012. there are lots of ways to help during the week a prayer  a donation  your ideas and encouragement too.

Jubilee for Justice petition continues to grow. more and more people are signing up  on our paper chain links and even celebrate the completion of each chain by taking photos and wearing them at each event.

The Methodist Birmingham District Synod saw Rev Bill Anderson wearing some of the paper chains beside the Faith in Action banner which had been made by the women attending a multi faith workshop earlier in the year. The hand sewn  red chains were another novel way of raising awareness  through art.


Dozens of Methodist clergy have now signed the Faith leaders letter to the PM. The total number from across many different faith groups stands at approximately 250 persons.


The  Zimbabwean Fellowship meeting at Selly Oak Birmingham also signed up in large numbers. Inspired by reading the report on Debt in Zimbabwe.

Do please get in touch if we can have space at one of your meetings to collect more signatures and make this a meaningful Jubilee year for all.

The target is 15,000 chain links with lots more photos.

More exciting news is coming from Jubilee Debt Campaign  London office about the Faith Leaders take up of our latest action.

“191 faith leaders have signed the letter so far, including Members of the Sikh, Jains, Arya Samaj, Hindu. Jewish and Muslim  Community, Also  many Christian denominations have  signed the Faith Leaders letter. Including Archbishops Bishops and prominent leaders for all sections of the church in the UK.”

Do be inspired by looking at the full list here

You can also view some photographs taken at signings here in Birmingham

The JDC office is now  getting  thousands of chain links  signed by members of  all the faith communities and indeed those of no faith. The level of support  given in just a few weeks has been wonderful.

Keep up the good work.

For more in formation on how you can do your part go to www.jdcmultifaith.org.


 This article  written by our Chairman  John Nightingale has recently appeared  in the June Bulletin of the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR; www.eccr.org.uk/bulletin)’

In the 1950s bankers seemed respectable but dull, like clergy or policemen. As a student in the 1960s I opened a current and then a savings account confident that my money would be secure. When I worked for the churches in Nigeria in the 1970s, I presumed that the largely British-based banks would help with much-needed development. Poverty, political independence and corruption were issues, but hardly banking or international debt.

In the 1980s I joined the Christian Ethical Investment Group, concerned above all that my church should not be supporting apartheid in South Africa. Investment areas off-limits included tobacco, alcohol and armaments, but bank shares were usually regarded as respectable.

International debt

I was also dimly becoming aware of the international debt problem of poor countries. In the 1970s loans were made too readily from oil money suddenly available; they became hard to repay when interest rates rose dramatically during the credit squeeze of the 1980s. Banks had been heavily involved in the lending, but by the 1990s most of their debts to poor countries had been taken over by national governments or international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Debts were rescheduled in one-sided agreements which often forced poor countries to privatise their public utilities or cut social and health programmes. It was clear that the poorest would never be able to repay their creditors, but billions of dollars were being spent each year in a vain attempt to do so.

Hence a campaign began for the cancellation of all poor countries’ debts at the second millennium, based on Jesus’ own promulgation of the year of Jubilee in his sermon at Nazareth as described in the fourth chapter of St Luke’s Gospel. With many others I took part in ‘human chains’ in Birmingham (1998) and Cologne (1999). But I would have been hard put to it to understand how the high street banks have been involved – until now.


The present financial crisis has led to the heart-searching ECCR report The Banks and Society: Rebuilding Trust.1 It has become clear that the deregulation of the 1980s has resulted in virtually unrestricted credit. UK banks no longer have to maintain a safe proportion of liquid assets (cash and central bank deposits) to loans; this was around 20% in 1968 but, according to the Wikipedia entry on ‘Reserve Requirement’, had declined to just over 3% by 1998.

Such a vast expansion of credit or ‘leverage’ was almost bound to lead to unwise loans and asset bubbles. However, few people, whether bankers, politicians or members of the public, complained at the time.

For the banks to have a monopoly in the creation of credit, as a public service, is immensely profitable; they gain interest on it. At the very least they ought to retain some public obligations – such as providing a nationwide banking network even in areas which are not particularly profitable. Some would go further and argue that the state should take over credit creation. But, in any case, the extent of leverage in the last decade has been irresponsible.

Tax havens and dodgy deals

The process has been aided by another aspect of British banking – its connection to an international system of tax havens which, according to Nicholas Shaxson on page 26 of his new book Treasure Islands, account for a quarter of global wealth.2 Tax havens like the Cayman Islands are attractive to investors both for their low taxes and for the secrecy they ensure through ‘blind trusts’, through which named solicitors buy shares within the City of London on behalf of their clients; because the relationship between lawyers and clients is confidential, the clients remain unnamed.

Many banks are involved. Shaxson says Barclays had 315 such subsidiaries two years ago. Many multinationals are able to manage their activities, for example by lending between subsidiaries, so that they pay where the rates are lowest rather than where their commercial activities actually take place. To change this practice is the purpose of the Tax Justice Campaign.3

Finally, banks have been financially involved in the activities of the UK’s Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD), or ‘Department for Dodgy Deals’ as described by the Jubilee Debt Campaign; further details can be found on the JDC website.4 The ECGD was originally set up to help small British companies operate in poor countries by underwriting their financial activities. However, in recent years it has been largely involved in export of arms and fossil-fuel technology, often with little regard for human rights, the environment or the risks of corruption.

Effect on the poorest

The classical spaces of Birmingham’s old banks have been turned into pubs and restaurants. Their replacements have the appearance of impersonal units primarily designed for the housing of terminals. Banking has become so specialised that bankers have little sense of the people involved in their borrowing and lending.

It is as if police operations were conducted by computers or drones without thought of international consequences. By contrast, policing today puts much more stress on the officer on the beat and shows much more awareness of the global context. Maybe the banks can follow that lead. I find myself applying to them, as to all of us, Gandhi’s test: Think what effect what you are doing will have on the poorest person on earth.

Canon John Nightingale (johnnightingale@btinternet.com) is a member of ECCR’s West Midlands Group and Chair of Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham.


1.      http://www.eccr.org.uk/banksandsociety

2.      Nicholas Shaxson, Treasure Islands: Uncovering the Damage of Offshore Banking and Tax Havens, Bodley Head, 2011.

3.      www.taxjustice.net

4.      www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk

Lots of new readers enjoyed the recent comments of David Golding. Here are a few more quotes from one of David sermon’s to inspire your activism.

“Pope Benedict says that rich countries actually correspond to the thieves in the Good Samaritans story, who attacked the man and left him close to death.

Poor countries lose far more on account of manifestly unfair trade rules than they receive in aid;

And they lose far more from tax fiddles by Western companies than they receive in aid;

And they lose far more in repayment of inherited debts than they receive in aid!”

 Desmond Tutu has rightly warned of a looming

“catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen.”

 Wilberforce told the House of Commons in his first great speech on the slave trade,

“We can no longer plead ignorance

We now stand in peril – all of us – of being complicit in a crime against humanity which makes the slave trade look like petty theft, with effects that make the miseries inflicted by the Pol Pots and Mugabe’s pale into insignificance.

 Bono’s – strangely beautiful but terrible words:

 “God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house…

God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives…

God is in the cries under the rubble of war…

God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives.”

 Conservative Peer, Lord Brian Griffiths, who was Head of Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit

 “Global poverty as we see it today – the billion plus people who live on less that a dollar a day – is totally unacceptable to any practising Christian”.

 William Carey,

“Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”.

 A solemn but glorious charge to you all, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

 “The poor stand up to fight for justice and win, and they lose what they have gained. They have to shuffle back to beg for work and their children sell their bodies to keep body and soul together – ha, keep body and soul together!

“And the world still seems the same. The rich are richer and the poor get poorer and more exploited and more voiceless.

“No, the world is not the same. You are God’s fellow worker, to be an agent of transformation, to change the ugliness, the poverty, the hunger, the hatred, everything degraded. To transform all into their glorious counterparts.”

May God grant that we will all achieve that supreme status, of being God’s fellow workers – God’s fellow workers in his kingdom.”

David Golding

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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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