UK faith leaders petition for global financial change

(Euro banknotes are seen in this picture illustration.)Photo: Reuters / David W Cerny

Thirty-seven Church of England bishops are among more than 300 faith leaders who have signed a statement that calls for European debt audits and global changes in the financial system that cancel the unjust debts of the most indebted nations.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign calls for promoting just and progressive taxation rather than excessive borrowing and stopping harmful lending which forces countries into debt.

"Over the last thirty years, there has been a series of debt crises culminating in the present one in Europe," declares the letter. "A self-serving financial system has brought the global economy to its knees and we are now seeing the poorest people in our own society and around the world paying the price for this excess."

Signatories include the President of the Muslim Association of Britain, Omer El-Hamdoon and the Chief Executive of the Movement for Reform Judaism, Ben Rich.

The letter comes at a time the global economy is floundering as policy makers scramble to try and solve debt crises in Europe, Japan and the United States – the key developed economies -- while still seeking ways of creating employment to revive market activity.

Their letter adds: "We need far-reaching changes in the global economy to build a society based on justice, mutual support and community. We need economic and political as well as spiritual renewal in our society."

Also signing the letter are seven Roman Catholic bishops; the President of the Methodist Conference, Mark Wakelin; the former director of the Evangelical Alliance, Joel Edwards; along with, Baptist, Unitarian and United Reformed Church leaders and the Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain.

Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Zoroastrians are also represented in the petition that notes the world's people are paying the price for an unjust financial system.

The letter will be delivered to British Prime Minister David Cameron after an event in the UK Parliament on Feb. 5 run by the Jubilee Debt Campaign and addressed by the Anglican Bishop of Bath and Wells, Peter Price.

The call comes 15 years after the launch of Jubilee 2000, when faith groups played a major role in a campaign that led to 80 billion British pounds (US$126 billion) of debt cancellation for some of the world's most impoverished countries.

The Jubilee Debt Campaign, the successor organization to Jubilee 2000, point out that many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia are still burdened by debts, which have increased since the financial crisis began, while the problem has now appeared in Europe as well.

The campaign is based on justice, not charity and the signers note that in its original, biblical meaning, a jubilee was a festival of economic justice, when debts were cancelled and slaves freed.

The petition urges "Europe and the world to engage in democratic audits of their national debts as a first step towards reclaiming public control of national finances."

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