As previously mentioned I’ve been a little under the weather this week. Nothing serious, just a little bout of the flu or a bad cold or something. If, however, I lived in a country other than Canada there is a reasonable chance that this little bout of the flu would have killed me. Liberia, for instance, has a literacy rate of 56%, an average life expectancy of 42 years and an HIV infection rate of 8%. Oh ya, I forgot to mention that this country of 3 million people spends $7 million per year on health care. As a point of comparison Canada, a country of roughly ten times Liberia’s population, spent $148 billion on health care in 2006 according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. For the math deficient among you $148 billion is not even roughly ten times more than $7 million (though I’m pretty sure that the Liberia stats are in US dollars, so that pretty near evens things out).
One of the reasons that I’m picking on Liberia here is that it is one of four countries held up as examples by the Jubilee Debt Campaign of nations that are not eligible for international debt forgiveness. This isn’t just a bad thing, it is actively criminal. It is, in my mind, the equivalent of forcing a homeless person to repay me for the $5 I dropped into his hat last week including interest at prime plus one. When the person next to you is dying from hunger and you give them money to eat you’ve done a good thing. If you turn around a take them to debtor’s court after they’ve eaten…well I don’t even know what to call that. Despicable, reprehensible, disgusting, horrifying…oh ya, criminal, I already used the word criminal so lets just stick with that.
I’m not sure if the Jubilee Debt Campaign is an organization with Christian or Jewish origins, but either way they’re using one of our words. The year of Jubilee was instituted as a part of the Law in order to create social justice within the Israelite community. The bit that the JDC is making particular reference to is Leviticus 25:28. “But if he does not acquire the means to repay him, what he sold will remain in the possession of the buyer until the Year of Jubilee. It will be returned in the Jubilee, and he can then go back to his property” (NIV). That is to say, if a person has sold his land to another and does not have the means to recover it, after 49 years that land must be returned to the original family for free, with no strings attached.
Usually this is the point where I talk about how I want our word back, about how I think that Christians should reclaim the terminology that someone in the world has stolen. Not this time. Don’t get me wrong, I want Christians to take this concept more seriously, but anyone who is willing to fight for a cause that will help millions of poor and disenfranchised people around the world is welcome to any damn word of mine they can find. That being said I think that perhaps we need to find more ways to support causes like the JDC. Check out their website if you’re looking for ways to help.
God takes seriously our treatment of the people around us in this world. So should we.