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Jubilee 2000: Cancel Zambia's Debt!,

 

Jubilee 2000 Joint Pastoral Letter
 
The Breaking of Chains is the World-wide Symbol of the Jubilee 2000 Campaign
 
7 August 1998
 
 

Zambia's external debt grew dramatically in the 1980s, and at the time of the 1991 political transition it stood at over US$ 7 billion, or almost U$ 700 for every Zambian woman, man and child. Several times the Catholic bishops had mentioned in the Statements the need to have this debt substantially reduced or cancelled. With the 'Jubilee 2000" campaign inspired by calls from Pope John Paul 11, Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury and other key religious leaders, the Zambian Churches joined together in a strong call for debt cancellation in order to enable Zambia to meet the great needs of the poor. The Churches pledged to monitor the use of money freed, so that these resources really contributed to meeting the social and productive needs of the Country.

Jubilee 2000: Cancel Zambia's Debt!

Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:
Greetings to you, with the peace of Jesus Christ

    In a year and a half, as we are entering into the Year 2000, many Christian denominations will be celebrating a 'jubilee year' in memory of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour.
  1. We reiterate our unreserved condemnation of the attempted coup. Coups solve no problem. Rather, they are a source of most of our problems in Africa; they are a recipe for anarchy. As a Church, therefore, our thanks will always go to God for saving this Nation from a possible military dictatorship. Examples of such anarchy abound throughout Africa. Coups have continued to disturb the peace, freedom and unity of the African Nation-State. This cannot be tolerated in a land, which has known peace for decades on end. God's gift of peace must be cherished at all costs.

    Zambia's External Debt

  2. Of special relevance to the people of Zambia today is the call for the cancelling of debt. As we are all aware, Zambia suffers heavily under an immense burden of external debt. Over US$7.1 billion is owed to donor countries and to international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. That amounts to a debt of almost US$ 750 for every woman, man and child in Zambia!
  3. We owe such a huge amount of money as debt for a variety of reasons. Our Government borrowed heavily in the 1970s when copper prices went down and petrol prices went up. Our economy was hit hard by these external factors. There were also internal factors influencing the accumulation of debt, such as mistakes and mismanagement. And interest had to be paid back on the loans that we received.
  4. In a word: simply trying to pay the interest and retire some of the capital each year has become a tremendous burden for Zambia. For example, in this year's Government budget, more money is spent on debt servicing than on all education and health expenditures combined. In a Country where 70% of the population lives below the poverty line, the fact that money is spent on debt service instead of meeting the needs of the people has tragic consequences. But what about efforts at debt relief?

    Debt Relief

  5. We leaders of the Christian community in Zambia welcome the efforts of our Government, many NGOs and Church groups in this Country and elsewhere, and concerned people around the world, to work for the reduction of our external debt. This reduction can come about through two initiatives currently in progress.
  6. The first is the programme organised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce debts of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) through negotiated agreements that are related to our maintaining the direction of economic reforms under the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). This HIPC initiative would in the future bring down a portion of Zambia's debts.
  7. The second programme is the more dramatic call for cancellation of Zambia's debt through the global campaign called 'Jubilee 2000'. This Jubilee initiative, organised around the world, calls upon the leaders of the richest Nations and the lending institutions to cancel the unpayable debts of poor countries, so that we can break the chains of debt and have a fresh start, a new beginning, to celebrate the new millennium.
  8. Zambia's total debt is clearly unpayable. Zambia cannot pay back because the debt burden is economically exhausting. It blocks future development. Zambia will not pay back because the debt burden is politically destabilising. It threatens social harmony. Zambia should not pay back because the debt burden is ethically unacceptable. It hurts the poorest in our midst. Has there been any Christian response?

    Christian Action

  9. For these reasons, then, we write this joint letter addressed to the members of our various Christian congregations in Zambia, and indeed to all Zambians of good will, to encourage positive and effective action to reduce our external debt. To this end, we:
    1. Call upon the Government to inform the citizenry about the actual debt situation of the Country and about debt relief negotiations that are underway. This is necessary so that there can be an informed public debate leading to wide democratic decisions.
    2. Call upon the members of the Churches of our three bodies (CCZ, EFZ, ZEC) to join the Jubilee 2000 capaign by signing the petition calling for cancellation of Zambia's debts. We are aiming to collect two hundred thousand (200,000) names over the next several months.
    3. Call upon our friends in the international community (sister and brother Churches, congregations, and all concerned persons) to lobby for equitable and effective debt relief. We are already deeply grateful for the support received so far in this effort.
  10. But we do wish to make three very important points regarding this campaign for debt relief for Zambia.
  11. First, we are not asking for debt 'forgiveness'. To receive 'forgiveness' is to acknowledge guilt. But Zambia has been, with considerable diligence and sacrifice, meeting its debt service. Our incurring of debt has not primarily been our fault, and hence 'forgiveness' is not the proper word to use. Rather we ask for 'cancellation' of an unpayable burden that is harming our people very much. It is not charity that we are seeking, but justice!
  12. Second, we recognise that Zambia must be responsible in the use of any monies made available through debt relief. For this reason we will hold the Government accountable, and cooperate with Government officials and civil society organisations to monitor the use of the money freed up if any when debt is cancelled. We want to ensure that the newly available resources really do contribute to meeting the social and productive needs of the Country.
  13. Third, we know that if Zambia is to move forward, honest and hard work is demanded of all of us. The experience of 'jubilee' in the cancelling of debt can be for us a new start, a fresh beginning, only if we commit ourselves to the culture of responsibility and accountability, and involve ourselves with dedication and sacrifice in working for the future of our children. It is here that the Churches must give the best example, so that not simply in words but in deeds we will have a true 'jubilee'! Conclusion
  14. In conclusion, then, we ask you, our brother and sister Christians, to join the 'Jubilee 2000' campaign in very practical and effective ways over the next few months. To this end, we urge you to: 399 Jubilee 2000: Cancel Zambia's Debt!
    1. Get more information and understanding about Zambia's debt. Our Church bodies can help you with materials.
    2. Discuss with local MPs and other Government officials the debt situation. Get them to take an active role in the campaign for equitable debt relief for Zambia.
    3. Discuss and sign the 'Jubilee 2000' petition. Help us to get two hundred thousand (200,000) signatures by the start of 1999. To that end, the ad hoc Ecumenical Steering Committee for Jubilee 2000-Zambia, which has been constituted by our three bodies, will be circulating petitions for your signatures.
  15. God blessed the people of the Old Testament who worked for the peace and justice of the jubilee and who committed themselves to building the community that is the family of God. This same God, revealed to us in Jesus, will bless our efforts here in Zambia, and the efforts of friends around the world, to promote that peace and justice and community that are the signs of the coming of God's Kingdom on earth that we pray for each day, as Matthew 6:10 testifies.

Let us pray for each other in this noble task!

Signed,

  Rev. Violet Sampa-Bredt,   General Secretary,
Christian Council of Zambia   Rev. Thomas Lumba,   Executive Director,
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia.   Fr. Ignatius Mwebe,   Secretary General,
Zambia Episcopal Conference