Yesterday I wrote about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and suggested that we use it as a tool to survey our churches’ missions. In that post I suggested that much of what we do is geared to Level Five: Self-Actualization. Well, today I read about a Level One mission, along with a Level One approach. Rev. David Duncombe, a 79-yr old retired minister, has nearly completed a 40-day fast while walking the halls of Congress, encouraging our Senators and Representatives to support the Jubilee Act (H.R.2634), a bill that would will cancel the debt of approximately 67 impoverished countries.
According to Jubilee USA, the bill “cancels impoverished country debt; removes economic conditionalities from the cancellation process; mandates transparency and accountability from governments and international financial institutions; and moves forward with more responsible lending practices.” A more detailed summary can be found here.
What’s the big deal with debt cancellation, and why is this a First Level (physiological) issue? In an article for Sojourners Magazine, Christina Cobourn Herman writes:
In Kenya, 1.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and many lack essential medicine and food. Half the population lives in poverty; 40 percent are unemployed. Yet, in recent years, the Kenyan government has had to pay as much in debt payments to foreign creditors—hundreds of millions a year just in interest—as it has for water, health, agriculture, roads, transport, and the finance ministry combined! With this budget, Kenya attempts to fund HIV/AIDS treatment, meager agricultural extension services for poor farmers, and a deteriorated road network that needs an estimated $1 billion in repairs.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank, which are controlled by the U.S. and other wealthy countries, has allegedly continued to lend impoverished nations money that they cannot repay; some allege that this is even an intentional means to keep these countries “in our debt,” literally. In Kenya’s case (as the article goes on to say):
As Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, puts it, “The people who are really being punished [for Kenya’s debt] are the poor people who never received that money to begin with. … Those who did business with our leaders knew they were corrupt, that they were not delivering services, that the money was quite often stolen and stashed away. Yet when you request cancellation [of debts], people want to pretend that you got that money.”
The current situation of 3rd world debt is similar to those in America who were suckered into negative amortization mortgages, and now find themselves “upside down,” where they can’t even afford to make the interest payments. So, 3rd World debt increases without any further benefit to the suffering populations. It has been estimated that these impoverished nations pay collectively $100 million in interest a day. And, as a result the basic needs of the people – food, medical care, and so on – are no where to be found.
What I found striking was that Reverend Duncombe has taken a Level One approach to a Level One problem. While I proudly attached my electronic signature to a letter to my congressman in support of the act, he has put his life on the line by giving up one of his most basic needs – food – to make his point that this is indeed a crisis of Level One proportions. Did I mention that he’s 79 years old?
I’m not, by they way, suffering under a load of misdirected guilt or trying to lay a trip on anyone else. I am not even suggesting 40-day fasts are for everyone. I am, however, challenged to think about real needs, and what I can do about them (besides sit here and blog while I sip a cup of Starbucks coffee). I do suggest, however, that you start here, at the One Campaign. Sign up and send a message to congress. It may be, quite literally, the very least we can do.