The Jubilee 2000 campaign has been based on a solid theological principle of the demand for justice and concern for the poor. This religious call has provided both a motivation for action and an evaluation of results. The office of the Jesuits for Debt Relief and Development (JDRAD), an international network of institutions and individuals of which our Jesuit Social Center is a member,prepared an end-of-the-year statement addressing the debt problem under a specific theological category.
We have to ask, however, why progress in resolving the debt problem is still so slow. Why so many hesitations? Why the difficulty in providing the funds needed even for the already agreed initiatives? It is the poor who pay the cost of indecision and delay". John Paul II, Address to Supporters of Jubilee 2000, Rome, September 1999.
We in JDRAD believed that the beginning of the new millennium provided the international community with an extraordinary opportunity to put an end to the Third World debt scandal. With so many others, we were inspired by the biblical vision of Jubilee.
We advocated progress towards a world where the livelihoods, opportunities and dignity of so many millions of the World's poor throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America would no longer be sacrificed for the sake of paying unjust, illegitimate and immoral debt.
Now at the close of the Jubilee Year 2000, we have been encouraged by some of the advances that have been made, particularly in terms of the international solidarity amongst peoples that has been generated in the effort to push for an end to the silent holocaust of debt. More and more people around the world understand how debt is destroying so many precious lives; more and more people have joined together to force change.
At the same time as we come to the end of this Jubilee Year, we do not deny that we are also filled with a real sense of disappointment. Despite so many high profile promises by international leaders, the debt reduction delivered to date falls very short of what so many people had called for.
Under the current debt relief scheme, HIPC, only 11 countries have begun to receive some relief and with this their debt servicing is reduced by only approximately a third. As it is, the majority of countries considered for debt reduction enter the early years of the new millennium still crucified by their debt service obligations.
The gap between the debt reduction promised and the money still being collected for servicing the debt is tragically illustrated by the plight of Zambia. The long awaited HIPC deal results in an outcome where Zambia will be paying about as much in the next few years than it had been paying before receiving the "benefits" of HIPC.
Our sense of frustration that political and economic leaders will not listen to a truly internationalCaCa movement of people, with support across all sorts of political, economic and religious divides and take adequate action to free the poorest nations from the slavery of debt, makes us question what the real obstacles are in this struggle. Together with Pope John Paul, we ask, why has progress been so slow, so minimal?
page -1-
Considered in the light of Christian faith, we believe that we can better grasp the meaning of Third World debt if we name it as "social sin". In a world of such vast resources, Third World debt, which causes and maintains unacceptable levels of poverty throughout the world, is structural sin against the will of God.
Christian faith teaches that the God of Jesus is a God who wills that the goods of the world be available to satisfy the basic needs of all people; that God wills us to recognize the inviolable and equal dignity of all people, as brothers and sisters in one human family; that God wills that all Christians be involved in the effort to promote justice.
Wherever the goods of the earth are not distributed in a way to provide for all, wherever equal dignity is denied to the point of denying basic human rights which are the minimum requirement to protect this dignity, and wherever people ignore the call to strive for greater justice, we are faced with the power of sin resisting God's dream for humanity.
Through the sinfully distorted dynamics of the debt game, we see sin crushing the possibilities history offers: in the unconditional insistence that loans be repaid irrespective of their human cost and changed circumstances; in the idolatry which converts loans made by the international financial institutions (IFIs) into almost untouchable loans, immune to cancellation; in the compelling of innocent victims of the international debt game to pay back debts, about which they had no say and from which they have not benefited; and in the ideology that the principle of paying off loans, no matter how injudiciously they were made, overrides all other ethical principles.
We see Third World debt as sinful then in terms of the cruel and unnecessary waste of human lives it brings and of the frustration of God's dreams it involves.

However, the evil of poverty and the destructiveness of debt become properly sinful only because so many humans co-operate with them.
page -2-
Third World debt has no natural life: it lives and grows because of policies designed by human beings.
If what debt does is sinful, must we not also discern the presence of the power of sin in people-made policies such as the failed HIPC initiatives, in their limited scope and half-hearted implementation and in the tinkering with policy reform rather than real commitment to meaningful debt cancellation for poverty reduction?
Nothing is gained by scapegoating isolated individuals for what Third World debt does. But we must honestly acknowledge that the hold that the chains of Third World debt has on the future of so many would be freed if we as members of the human family, and especially as citizens of nations, were sufficiently determined in our collective efforts and organizations to demand that those with the relevant power put an end to the harm it does
Structural sin lives only because we cooperate with it to different degrees in the different circumstances of our lives through omission or commission. This is so perhaps not in our individual or more intimate lives where we tend to look for sin.
Rather it is because in our public lives as members of nations, of governments, of civil societies so many of us have not yet sufficiently committed ourselves to work together to putting an end to this scandal.
And as Jesus reminds us, to fail to do whatever we can, when our brothers and sisters are daily nailed to the cross, is to be complicit with such sin (Matthew 25: 31-46). One of the successes of the Jubilee campaign has been to engage the G7 and IFIs as collectivities with major responsibility for the origins and continuation of this problem.
'If we are disappointed with what these leaders have delivered, let us remember that their representative role, means that to a large extent they continue to deliver such half-hearted solutions because we as citizens of the world do not exert sufficient pressure to see this crisis resolved.
Neither as political leaders nor as citizens can we easily claim that we do not have sufficient knowledge about what is going on. The fact that this Jubilee campaign has been so successful in communicating the essential facts of what debt does to people, and the unquestionable insufficiency of the debt proposals on the table, means that it is much less credible to excuse ourselves on the grounds of ignorance.
Nor do we consider it justified to defend our innocence on the grounds that we do not fully consent to what is being done.
page -3-
Our freedom is not only expressed in intentional acts but is also expressed in our apathy and reluctance to add our weight to the movement for debt cancellation. To pass by our brothers and sisters in such great need when we are in a position to relieve their suffering is sinful (Luke 10: 25-37).
We believe we are called to unite our personal and social efforts with all who seek to resist the power of sin in history. The sad reality of what debt continues to do to so many people throughout the world reminds us of the very public and social face of sin. But the Christian view of sin also encourages us in this struggle.

In the final analysis we believe that, as Jubilee triumphs over social division, grace has already triumphed over sin in Jesus' resurrection. The power of that almost unimaginable and certainly unexpected event continues to be active in the human community wherever people continue to take a stand together against the death dealing forces of sin.
Yes, together with Pope John Paul we join our voices with all those who at the end of this Jubilee year cry out "how long? But, we also renew our own collective commitment to ensuring that we do what we can, as citizens, as networks of citizens, as nations, as churches, to put an end to the sinful tragedy of Third World Debt.
JDRAD Office
Dublin, Ireland
This article appeared in JCTR (Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection) Bulletin No.47, First Quarter 2001.
page -End-
=====     Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved     =====