WASHINGTON (June 1, 1999) -- Heavy national debts mean education and health services get short shrift in third world nations around the globe. That fact has prompted organizers of the National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice to make debt forgiveness a key issue for their meeting slated for July 15-18 in Los Angeles.
In Uganda, for example, the government spends three dollars per person annually on health and education and $17 per person on debt repayments.
In Honduras, where 50 percent of the people live below the poverty line, the government was burdened by a debt of $4.1 billion, $147.7 million of which is owed directly to the U.S. government, even before Hurricane Mitch devastated the country.
Niger, meanwhile, spends three times more money paying off its debt burden than on health and education. Oxfam International predicts that debt relief today would save 475,000 children in Niger.
The Los Angeles meeting,"Open the Doors to Christ: A National Catholic Gathering for Jubilee Justice," features several speakers on debt forgiveness, including Barbara Kohnen, the U.S. Bishops' policy adviser on international economics and human rights.
Ms. Kohnen will address debt forgiveness in a workshop titled "Forgiving Third World Debt: A Requirement of Jubilee Justice." The session will examine the causes of the debt crisis, its effect on the poor and Pope John Paul II's call for forgiveness of debt as society enters into the Third Millennium.
Debt forgiveness traditionally is one of the ways outlined in Scripture to mark millennial milestones.
A related workshop, "Forgiving Debts: Global Economic Inequalities," will explore what it means to forgive debt in order to restore equality among God's people. The session will focus on the dichotomy between first and third world peoples in today's global economy.
Other speakers at the Jubilee Justice meeting include death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo of East Timor, McArthur grantee Father J. Bryan Hehir, veteran actor Carroll O'Connor and PBS and CNN commentator Mark Shields.
Workshops in English and Spanish will address more than 100 topics, including racism, the environment, health care, non-violence, parish social ministry, liturgy and worship, debt forgiveness, sweatshops, immigration, euthanasia and other pro-life issues, education for justice and Catholic identity.
Co-chairs of the event, Annette Kane, Executive Director of the National Council of Catholic Women, and Father Robert Vitillo, Executive Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, note that the meeting is a response to the Pope John Paul's call for Catholics to prepare for the Jubilee Year 2000.
Persons seeking copies of the registration booklet can call (202) 541-3149. Information on the meeting also can be found at www.nccbuscc.org/jubileejustice.