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Faith leaders call for debt relief to save lives

The UK has an opportunity to help give poorer countries their best chance of fighting Covid-19 – by cancelling their international debt. Faith leaders are now calling on the UK government to lift this burden

Written by Tearfund | 13 Jul 2020

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For developing countries, being able to focus resources on fighting the coronavirus pandemic is literally a matter of life or death. Faith leaders in the UK say our government could give poorer nations a fighting chance against Covid-19, by cancelling international debt. 

On Monday, 77 UK faith leaders joined their voices to call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to cancel debt repayments for the world’s poorest 77 countries. This would bring critical relief to help them fight the pandemic and invest in health care, access to clean water and emergency supplies.

Among many others, the letter was signed by: former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams; Rev Nicky Gumbel (HTB); Rev Kate Wharton, Rev Mark Melluish and Rev Paul Harcourt (New Wine); Dr Marcus Chilakaa (RCCG); Rev Celia Apeagylia-Collins; Dr Krish Kandiah; Rev Gavin Calver and Rev Yemi Adedeji (Evangelical Alliance); Dr Robert Beckford; and bishops from all over the UK.Tearfund CEO Nigel Harris also signed the letter, along with the leaders of Christian Aid, CAFOD and SCIAF. In our Reboot Campaign, we’ve been calling for the UK government to prioritise the poorest in the Covid-19 response and recovery – and one of our ‘five steps to a better world’ is cancelling debt for the poorest countries.

‘There is an overarching moral case for international debt relief’

In their joint letter, the faith leaders say, ‘There is an overarching moral case for debt relief.’ They highlight the teaching about debt cancellation and caring for the most vulnerable found in both the Old and New Testaments, and in other faiths too.

They continue, ‘To insist on debt repayment in the face of the suffering caused by this pandemic would be an affront to the faith traditions that we represent.’ 

Instead, the faith leaders are asking the chancellor to work with the finance ministers from other countries to cancel repayments owed in 2020 and 2021, and to push for the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and others to do the same.

Coronavirus and the lockdowns to protect public health have brought huge challenges for those who were already vulnerable. Many people are struggling to get food and clean water or earn a daily wage, and are at risk from sexual and gender-based violence. The World Bank estimates that between 71–-100 million people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic, while 270 million people could be facing severe food shortages, by the end of the year, according to the World Food Programme. Cancelling debt is a crucial step we can take to help countries respond to the pandemic and save lives.

Add your support to the Reboot Campaign by calling on the UK government to prioritise the poorest in our response to and recovery from the pandemic. Send your reboot message today:

The full list of signatories is as follows:

  1. Rt Rev and Rt Hon Dr Rowan Williams – former Archbishop of Canterbury 
  2. Most Rev John D E Davies – Archbishop of Wales; Bishop of Swansea and Brecon
  3. Most Rev Mark Strange – Primus, on behalf of the College of Bishops, Scottish Episcopal Church
  4. Rt Rev John Arnold – Bishop of Salford; lead bishop on environmental affairs for the Catholic Church in England and Wales 
  5. Rt Rev Declan Lang – Bishop of Clifton; Chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Department for International Affairs
  6. Rt Rev Joseph Toal – Bishop of Motherwell; President of SCIAF
  7. Rt Rev William Nolan – Bishop of Gallowayb
  8. Rt Rev Christopher Chessun – Bishop of Southwark
  9. Rt Rev Tim Dakin – Bishop of Winchester
  10. Rt Rev John Inge – Bishop of Worcester
  11. Rt Rev Nick Baines – Bishop of Leeds
  12. Rt Rev Christopher Cocksworth – Bishop of Coventry
  13. Rt Rev Ric Thorpe – Bishop of Islington
  14. Rt Rev Joanna Penberthy – Bishop of St David’s
  15. Rt Rev James Langstaff – Lord Bishop of Rochester and Bishop to HM Prisons
  16. Rt Rev Graham Usher – Bishop of Norwich
  17. Rev Hugh Nelson – Bishop-designate of St Germans
  18. Very Rev Susan Brown – Former moderator of the General Assembly, Church of Scotland 
  19. Rev Richard Teal – President of the Methodist Conference
  20. Carolyn Lawrence – Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
  21. Rev Mark Slaney – District Chair, Methodist Church (Scotland)
  22. Dr Marcus Chilaka – Assistant Provincial Pastor and National Ecumenical Lead, The Redeemed Christian Church of God
  23. Rev John Fulton – Moderator, General Assembly of the United Free Church of Scotland
  24. Rev Dr David Pickering – Moderator, United Reformed Church (Scotland)
  25. Rev Clare Downing – Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
  26. Mr Peter Pay – Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church
  27. Rev Simon Walkling – Moderator, United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales
  28. Lynn Green – General Secretary of the Baptist Union
  29. Rev Martin Hodson – General Director, Baptist Union of Scotland
  30. Frances J Bloomfield – Convenor, Baptist Union of Scotland
  31. Rev Damian Howard SJ – Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain
  32. Elizabeth Allen – Clerk, General Meeting for Scotland, Quakers in Scotland
  33. Rev Gavin Calver – CEO, Evangelical Alliance
  34. Rev Canon Yemi Adedeji – Director of One People Commission at Evangelical Alliance
  35. Rev Dr Stephen Wigley – Chair of the Wales Synod of the Methodist Church in Wales
  36. Rev Dr Jennifer A Hurd – District Chair, Synod Cymru of the Methodist Church
  37. Rev Celia Apeagyei-Collins – Founder of the Rehoboth Foundation
  38. Rev Christopher Gillham – Secretary, Congregational Federation in Wales
  39. Rev May-Kane Logan – Congregational Federation in Scotland
  40. Lt Col Carol Bailey – Secretary for Scotland, Salvation Army
  41. Pastor Chris Gbenle – Provincial Pastor, Province of Scotland, Redeemed Christian Church of God
  42. Dyfrig Rees – General Secretary, Union of Welsh Independents
  43. Rev Nicky Gumbel – Vicar, Holy Trinity Brompton
  44. Professor Robert Beckford – Professor of Theology at the Queen’s Ecumenical Foundation
  45. Rev Dr Sam Wells – Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields
  46. Rev Paul Harcourt – National Leader, New Wine
  47. Rev Kate Wharton – Assistant National Leader, New Wine
  48. Rev Prebendary Mark Melluish – Assistant National Leader, New Wine
  49. Dr Julie Morgan – Executive Director, New Wine
  50. Dr Krish Kandiah – social entrepreneur, theologian and founder of Home for Good
  51. Chris Gillham – Secretary, Congregational Federation in Wales 
  52. Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris – Principal, Leo Baeck College 
  53. Rabbi Aaron Goldstein – Chair, Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors; Senior Rabbi, Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue
  54. Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh – Dean, Leo Baeck College
  55. Rabbi Naomi Goldman – Kol Chai Synagogue, Hatch End Reform Jewish Community 
  56. Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts – Honorary Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Durham University; Honorary Research Fellow, Leo Baeck College
  57. Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick – Convenor, Reform Beit Din; Rabbi, West Central Liberal Synagogue 
  58. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra – Imam; Chair, Virtue Ethics Foundation
  59. Imam Sayed Razawi FRSA – Chief Imam, Scottish Ahlul Bayt Society
  60. Sheikh Suliman – Trustee, Edmonton Islamic centre
  61. Molana Mujahid Ali – Imam, Hafs Academy, London
  62. Sheikh Abdulqadir – Imam Al-Muntada, West London Islamic Cultural Centre 
  63. Sheikh Kazi Luthfur Rahma – Imam & Khateeb, London Central Mosque, Regent’s Park 
  64. Mohammed Saeed – Trustee, Green Lane Mosque, Birmingham
  65. Imam Abid Salik – Imam of York Mosque & Islamic Centre
  66. Dr Ravi – Trustee of Liverpool Mosque & Institute 
  67. Abdul Kareem Gheewala – Chair, Federation of Muslim Organisations, Leicester 
  68. Imam Emran Ahmed – Al Hikmah (Aberdeen)
  69. Imam Ibrahim – Aberdeen Muslim and Islamic Centre
  70. Moulana Sohail Ashfaque – Blackhall Mosque, Edinburgh
  71. Moulana Abu Bakr – Cumbernauld Mosque
  72. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi – CEO of Christian Aid
  73. Nigel Harris – CEO of Tearfund
  74. Christine Allen – Director of CAFOD
  75. Alistair Dutton – Director of SCIAF
  76. Tufail Hussein – Director, Islamic Relief
  77. Shanon Shah – Interim Coordinator of Faith for the Climate network

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Written by  Tearfund

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