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
Tearfund | 13 Jul 2020
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: www.tearfund.org/reboot
The full list of signatories is as follows:
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