Forgiving Third World Debt

I recently received an email from a friend wanting to engage in some conversation about the idea of forgiving third world debt. Part of her email read as follows:

"i've been thinking about this "make poverty history" campaign a bit lately. i'm guessing that you are in favor of this, but can you articulate why? i know that the 3 main things that they are trying to do is to enforce trade justice, cancel debt for the poorest countries, and give more and better aid to these nations. i would say that that is where most of my knowledge stops. so, what do you think about all of this? why are you in favor of it? do you think that canceling debt is a long term solution or a short term one? how much will that change a country's way of life...as opposed to just putting a band aid on it. there have been debt cancellation efforts in the past, right? and they didn't really take. how will this one be different? not to mention, don't we have our own debt? as well as britain and other "wealthy" countries? so how would we be able to afford the cancellation? how would that play out financially for us? etc..."

She was right, I am in favor of thie idea of making poverty history, but unfortunately I could not answer her first question well. I was not sure how to articulate why I was in favor of this. So, I invited her to join me on a quest to understand these issues. I would like to extend that invitation to the one or two other people that might come across my blog. Here was part of my reply:

"I tend to rely on other people to help me think through these things. So the important thing for me is to find people whose opinion and judgments I trust. That means for the most part staying clear of extreme positions. As you know I very much like what Sojourners is doing on the political front when it comes to poverty issues. Jim Wallis, the founder, has been involved in poverty issues for longer than I've been alive and I appreciate how his faith plays out in his political convictions. Yes, he and Sojourners tend to lean to the left, but not so far as to make them extremists. I am sure there are other people and organizations that would be able to provide better answers to your questions than me. So here's what I suggest - Let's find out about this together. If I come across anything that addresses one of your questions I will send you a note about it. You do the same for me. I might even get something going on my blog.

This is a very important issue for me, I just have not had the time or energy to exlore it very deeply. Your questions may just be the catalyst to get me going. As to your questions for now, I will think about them a bit more and try to articulate some initial responses, but like I said, we both may benefit from doing more exploration. I will probably start at Sojourners' website (www.sojo.net). In fact you might check out this interview with South Africa's bishop (the guy who succeeded Desmond Tutu) - http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=
soj0507&article=050720. The article mentions several things, one, the Micah Network, sounds like something we should look into. Anyway, check out the article, read other things on teh topic on the website, find other things, and then let's see what we've come up with. All I can tell you right now is that I believe something needs to be done about the terrribly wide gap between rich and poor nations because I think we are charged with a moral, spiritual, biblical, and Christian obligation. Spelling those obligations out, however, will take some time."

Since, I am in the middle of my last chapter of my disertation, I doubt I will have a ton of time to devote to this issue right now. However, my interest has been piqued and I am sure I will do some internet scouring from time to time. Whenever I find anything I will post it. We can use those posts as thread starters. Please, anyone and everyone, add your thoughts. This is a serious issue. One that we who are not directly affected by it should more consciously and intentionally investigate and act upon. Won't you join me?

When I brought this up to my wife, Gail, who is probably more passionate about this than I am, she recalled reading somewhere that these countries spend more money JUST ON INTEREST from their debts than they do on healthcare, education, etc. combined! If this is true, then I doubt forgiveness of debts would be a "band-aid on a gashing wound" answer. She also said Bread for the World might provide some info on the subject. I haven't explored the site yet, but I will and I invite you to do the same.

For a while, the extent of my involvement may be much like that above - making a few brief comments and passing along something for us all to read and explore. In the end of all of this I would like to be able to answer my friend's question, "can you articulate why?"

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