From the Worldwide Faith News archives

United Methodists join hands for Jubilee 2000

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.UMC.ORG>
Date 10 Apr 2000 15:03:23

April 10, 2000 News media contact: Joretta Purdue ·(202) 546-8722·Washington

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - United Methodists joined people from other religious
groups, along with labor, human rights and environmental activists, to rally
April 9 on the nation's Mall for Jubilee 2000.

Jubilee 2000 is an international campaign aimed at securing debt relief for
the world's poorest countries. The idea is based on the Old Testament call
for a jubilee year, when slaves are set free and debts canceled.

"Many impoverished countries carry such high levels of debt that economic
development is stifled and scarce resources are diverted from health care,
education and other socially beneficial programs to make debt service
payments," states the platform of the Jubilee 2000/USA group. It adds that
the borrowing often benefited only the indebted country's elite or resulted
from flawed policies imposed by creditors in exchange for assistance.

The "National Mobilization on the Mall" had dozens of sponsors, including
the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of
the Board of Global Ministries. Rally officials planned the event as the
first in a series of protests focusing on the meetings of the World Bank and
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington later in the week.

While wind gusts kept a few picturesque kites aloft in the distance, the
United Methodists stood or sat on the ground for a lively program that
combined musical entertainment with grim statistics about death, disease and
denial of education and other basic services -- problems that speakers
attributed to World Bank and IMF policies.

That same wind sent caps flying and whipped clothing and hair about. Rally
officials said it may have kept away some participants.  Estimates of the
crowd's size by news media varied but were generally lower than the
organizers' 5,000 to 7,000 estimates.  

For three sisters, the event was a family occasion. Pauline Rankin, who
attends Carville United Methodist Church in Janesville, Wis., was being
pushed in a wheelchair by younger members of the family. Sister Genny
Scheldorf, a member of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Louisville, Ky.,
was accompanied by daughters Cindy and Nancy.

A third sister, Maxine Robinson, who attends West Baltimore (Md.) United
Methodist Church, was the local host for the family. Her husband, Earl, and
daughter Lynn were there, too. Lynn, who attends Catonsville United
Methodist Church and is a school nurse at Milford Mill High School in
Randallstown, Md., brought the school's Spanish teacher, Pilar A. Chollet, a
Roman Catholic originally from Tarija, Bolivia. 

Chollet said she knows from family members still residing in Bolivia that
the country's international debt "is a heavy burden," especially for the
people of native descent.

Rally participants heard speakers like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, a
self-described grassroots network of Christians working to provide a
prophetic alternative vision for church and society. He said that the three
richest families in the world have more money than the 48 poorest countries

"The debt burden of developing countries is killing hundreds of thousands of
children every year," declared John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. He
cited as an example Ethiopia, where more than 100,000 children die each year
from diarrhea that can be treated, but the government is spending four times
as much on debt payments as on its public health budget.

David Beckman, president of Bread for the World, a Christian citizens'
movement against hunger, urged Congress to fund debt relief. Mozambique
continues to pay $1.5 million a week in interest on its foreign debt,
despite the devastation and setbacks of widespread flooding there, he said.

"A lot of us didn't know what was going on," said Marion Perkins, a member
of Coleman United Methodist Church in Wilmington, Del. Perkins was one of
eight conference United Methodist Women's mission coordinators for social
action brought to Washington for the rally, plus a United Methodist seminar
and advocacy work. She said she was prepared to take information back to her
local churches and communities. She felt such programs would help people at
home as well as those in foreign countries, she said.

Sweeney was one of the speakers who pointed out this connection.

"High debt levels force developing countries to lower labor standards and
wages in order to attract corporate investment," he said. "That means
American workers must compete for jobs with workers in other countries who
are making 10 cents an hour - it pits worker against worker and nation
against nation in a race to the bottom." He urged stopping the race with
immediate debt relief. 

Bonnie Hensley, a UMW mission coordinator from the Illinois Great Rivers
Conference, noted that U.S. Jubilee chairperson Jo Marie Griesgraber had
told the seminar group that canceling the debt of the most impoverished
countries could be achieved for only $8 per person over a three-year period
for people in the United States.

The debts of the poor countries could be canceled for one-half of 1 percent
of the U.S. federal budget, said Debra Sue Chenault, a deaconess assigned by
the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries to the Asheville (N.C.)
District as a church and community worker. "I was thinking of where our tax
dollars go," she said. 

She also found it "more powerful" to hear people from the Southern
Hemisphere present their perspectives on this issue, she said. "Proclaiming
Jubilee 2000 is calling forth the best in us." 

Chenault was accompanied by her mother, Marie Chenault, of Clifton Forge,
Va. A nurse for 46 years, the elder Chenault expressed concern about the
medical care that is not being delivered in the poverty-stricken countries
because of their debt.

Carol Johnson, a UMW mission coordinator from the Oregon-Idaho Annual
Conference, expressed enthusiasm for the varied backgrounds of the rally
participants. They not only crossed religious boundaries but also brought
together representatives of many other groups, she said. "We need to find
common ground not only with United Methodist Women but by making

When the crowd formed a chain around the nation's capitol after a 3½-hour
rally, Tsitsi Moyo, a Zimbabwean who was in Africa University's first
graduating class, found herself clasping hands with the Rev. Larry Wayman,
Oxnard, Calif., who was sent by the California-Pacific Conference Board of
Church and Society. Wayman said his North Oxnard congregation of about 50
members is concerned about Mozambique having to deal with debt while trying
to recover from the floods.

Moyo, a student at Boston University School of Theology, had come on a bus
that had traveled all night through rain and snow. The trip had been
organized by Irene Irving, Peace with Justice coordinator for the New
England Conference Board of Church and Society. The bus had started with
three people in Kittery, Maine, the night before, and ultimately picked up
42 passengers. They included students and grandparents, members of the
United Methodist and American Baptist churches and the United Church of

One of the United Methodists was the Rev. Christopher Chambae Lee, pastor of
the Berwick (Maine) United Methodist Church. A student activist in South
Korea, he said he expects to focus much of his ministry on redemptive

He called the rally for Jubilee 2000 "very spiritual and inspirational." He
said it was "emotionally overwhelming to see so many people moved by God for
the common mission."
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United Methodist News Service
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