Nation’s Largest Jewish Organization Encourages Full Funding for International Debt Relief
FOR IMMIDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Danielle Hirsch, (202) 387-2800
Saperstein: "In this time of unparalleled prosperity, we are morally bound to do what we can to relieve the burden of insurmountable debt that is threatening the future of too many of the world's people. Forgiveness of debt should be made important not only in human terms, but out of moral responsibility."
WASHINGTON, September 21, 2000 - Joining widespread coalition of organizations supporting international debt relief, the Reform Jewish Movement sent letters to the House and Senate urging full U.S. funding of debt relief efforts. This letter was part of an effort along with a rally today, to demonstrate support for international debt relief. This letter expresses the significance for action as an issue of moral imperative.
The complete letter follows:
On behalf of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I urge you to act promptly to support critically needed funding for debt relief to the world's most impoverished countries. Specifically, we request $435 million in the FY2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, free from any link to IMF gold stores, and the remainder for FY2002-2003.
Large international debts have become a serious impediment to poverty reduction and economic development in the world's poorest countries. According to UNICEF, nearly 19,000 children die each day in the world's most impoverished and indebted countries because these nations lack social service programs adequate to meet the needs of their citizens. These nations cannot afford to institute social service programs because such a large portion of the national budget goes to interest payments on multinational debts. Children and adults who suffer from hunger, poor water quality, AIDS and other diseases are all directly affected by the fact that their countries are forced to spend scarce funds on debt servicing rather than on health care, public health measures, education, and environmental protections. In this way, individuals are literally causalities of the crushing international debt burden.
An appropriation of less than $435 million this year will seriously jeopardize the international debt relief arrangement agreed to by all nations at the G-8 meeting in Cologne and reaffirmed this summer in Okinawa. Congressional commitment to the United States' full contribution (less than 4 percent of the total) is necessary to leverage contributions from other countries. Equally important, full funding provides the incentive to poor indebted countries to make the commitments necessary to qualify for debt relief and begin the process of poverty reduction, investments in health and education, and development.
Our religious tradition commands us that, "At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows. Every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor; he must not press his neighbor, his kinsman, because a relaxation in honor of the Holy One has been proclaimed." (Deuteronomy 15). In time of unparalleled prosperity, we are morally bound to do what we can to relieve the burden of insurmountable debt that is threatening the future of too many of the world's people. Forgiveness of debt should be made important not only in human terms, but out of moral responsibility. We thus urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that the $435 million towards international debt relief is fully funded.
Rabbi David Saperstein
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), whose 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) whose membership includes over 1700 Reform rabbis.