Countries in debt crisis are being held to ransom by big banks and hedge funds. We can stop them, but only if enough of us act.
More than 140 senior Church leaders from around the world have signed a letter urging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to cancel debts for developing countries fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter – signed by cardinals, archbishops and heads of religious congregations from different Christian denominations – was sent ahead of the World Bank and IMF annual meetings on 16-18 October 2020.
The institutions are expected to discuss debt relief for poor nations at the meeting as part of planning for the global economic recovery.
IMF and World Bank urged to show 'courageous leadership' on debt relief
In the letter, the Church leaders encourage the institutions to show “courageous leadership” and argue that debt cancellation “is the most immediate way to release the finance required to prevent millions of our sisters and brothers being needlessly pushed into poverty by the pandemic.”
Signatories to the letter include:
Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel (Archbishop of Addis Ababa)
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu (Archbishop of Kinshasa)
Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario (Archbishop Emeritus of Dhaka)
Sister Alessandra Smerilli (Coordinator of the Economy Taskforce of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19)
Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri (Deputy General Secretary, World Council of Churches)
Archbishop JosiahIdowu-Fearon (Secretary General of the Anglican Communion)
Rev. Fidon Mwombeki (General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches).
‘Grave risk without debt cancellation'
The faith leaders write that each has "borne witness to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the most vulnerable members of our communities through illness, death, hunger and loss of livelihoods".
The letter goes on to acknowledge emergency finance initiatives implemented by the Washington-based institutions earlier in the pandemic, but warns such programmes "are insufficient and do not respond to the urgency and magnitude of the crisis".
"Without the cancellation of debts, there remains a grave risk that developing countries will not have the money so desperately and urgently needed to halt the spread of the virus, to treat people suffering from the virus and to mitigate and recover from the economic and social destruction threatened by the virus," the letter insists.
The senior Christian figures cite a call from Pope Francis for debts to be cancelled "in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises" faced by vulnerable countries as a result of the coronavirus.
The Pope reiterated his call for relief earlier this month in an encyclical warning the world must work together to rebuild following the pandemic.
Read the letter in full
Dear Ms Georgieva and Mr Malpass,
We write in a spirit of solidarity and hope as representatives of Christian communities from all corners of the globe.
Each of us has borne witness to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the most vulnerable members of our communities through illness, death, hunger and loss of livelihoods. We live and work every day with those who are suffering and share their hopes and fears for the future.
Both of your organisations have acknowledged the devastation the pandemic is causing. The World Bank has warned the pandemic “threatens to push over 100 million people into extreme poverty and is exacerbating inequality throughout the world” and has urged governments and private creditors to suspend and reduce debts, whilst the International Monetary Fund has recognised that “many countries now face multiple crises – a health crisis, a financial crisis, and a collapse in commodity prices”.
As our governments do all they can to respond to the pandemic, we witness the ongoing injustice that the money so desperately needed for medicines, personal protective equipment, emergency food supplies and social safety nets is still being diverted to debt repayments.
As such, we ask you to show courageous leadership at this critical moment and cancel debts owed by developing countries to your institutions for the duration of this crisis. Debt cancellation is the most immediate way to release the finance required to prevent millions of our sisters and brothers being needlessly pushed into poverty by the pandemic.
Our call echoes that from Christian leaders worldwide. In his message to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, His Holiness Pope Francis urged “the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19”. We are aware that dozens of faith leaders earlier this year have similarly urged governments and the International Monetary Fund itself to cancel debts.
To date, your institutions have taken several steps to respond to the crisis, including the IMF’s decision to cover debt payments owed over a six-month period for 28 countries, as well as the availability of new emergency finance from the IMF and World Bank worth $88 billion thus far.
Yet these initiatives, though welcome, are insufficient and do not respond to the urgency and magnitude of the crisis. Without the cancellation of debts, there remains a grave risk that developing countries will not have the money so desperately and urgently needed to halt the spread of the virus, to treat people suffering from the virus and to mitigate and recover from the economic and social destruction threatened by the virus.
Both of your institutions hold significant reserves in US dollars and in gold, which are held for such a time as this. It is therefore essential that these reserves are used to relieve the burden of debts for countries in precarious need.
The role of the IMF and World Bank is central to tackling this crisis in a way that prioritises the needs of the most vulnerable people, learns from the past and seeks to heal and rebuild our world.
As you meet this week, we continue to pray for you and remain committed to ongoing cooperation.
List of signatories
Cardinal Fridolin Ambongo Besungu OFMCap – Archevêque Métropolitain de Kinshasa
Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Souraphiel, CM – Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Addis Ababa; President of CBCE & Chancellor of ECU; Chairman of Ethiopian Reconciliation Commission
Père Jean Germain Rajoelison – Second Deputy Secretary General, SECAM (Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar)
Rev. Dr. Fidon Mwombeki – General Secretary, All Africa Conference of Churches
Mgr. Philippe Rukamba – Evêque de Butare
Bishop Abraham Desta – Apostolic Vicar of Meki
Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator, SJ – President of Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar
Fr. Ratsimbazafy Fulgence, SJ – Provincial, Jesuits in Madagascar
Bishop Dr. Arkanjelo Wani Lemi – Chairman, South Sudan Council of Churches; President Bishop, Africa Inland Church
Rt. Rev. James Par Tap Hon – Moderator, South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church
Most Rev. Dr. Justin Badi Arama – Archbishop and Primate, Episcopal Church of South Sudan; Metropolitan Bishop of Juba Diocese
Most Rev. Msgr. Dr. Stephen Ameyu Martin – Metropolitan Archbishop of Juba; Apostolic Administrator Catholic Dioceses of Torit and Wau
Rt. Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow – Moderator of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church of South Sudan & Sudan
Bishop Dr. Isaiah Majok Dau – General Overseer, Sudan Pentecostal Church
Bishop William Muzee Weresen – Regional Bishop, Africa Inland Church
Fr. James Oyet Latansio – General Secretary, South Sudan Council of Churches
Mgr. Philippe Ranaivomanana – évêque d’Antsirabe
Sr. Julia Anne Sheehy, PBVM
Most Rev. Bishop Abune Tesfasellassie Medhin – Bishop of Adigrat, Ethiopia and CIDSE Ecclesiastical Assistant
Most Rev. Bishop Seyoum Fransua – Apostolic Vicar of Hosanna; National Director of Pontifical Mission Societies in Ethiopia
Sr. Judith Bingura – Leader, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Africa Unit
Sr. Judyta, Elzbieta Ligieza, SSpS – Regional Leader, Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, Region of Ethiopia-South Sudan
Most Rev. Gabriel Y. Anokye – Archbishop of Kumasi, Ghana; President, Caritas Africa
Most Rev. Andrew Jagaye Karnley – Bishop of Cape Palmas
Most Rev. Bishop Anthony Richard Fallah Borwah – President, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Liberia; Bishop of Gbarnga
Mgr. Honoré Barhebwa Tukulenabo – Vicaire Général du diocèse d’Uvira
Most Rev. Edward Tamba Charles – Archbishop of Freetown
Most Rev. Charles A.M. Campbell – Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Bo
Most Rev. Henry Aruna – Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Kenema
Most Rev. Bishop Natale Paganelli, sx – Apostolic Administrator, Diocese of Makeni
Rt. Rev. Mark K. Ngobeh – Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church Sierra Leone
Rt. Rev. Arnold C. Temple – Bishop Emeritus, Methodist Church Sierra Leone
Bishop Tamba A. Koroma – Bishop of the National Pentecostal Church (Sierra Leone)
Rev. Henry Abioseh Samuels – Head of Mission, Vine Memorial Baptist Mission (Sierra Leone)
Rev. John Adikali Baminhoma – National Superintendent, Wesleyan Church of Sierra Leone
Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, CSC – Archbishop Emeritus, Dhaka Catholic Archdiocese
Dr. Mathews George Chunakara – General Secretary, Christian Conference of Asia
Most Rev. Shorot Francis Gomes – Auxiliary Bishop, Dhaka Catholic Archdiocese
Sr. Mary Minoti, SMRA - Superior General, SMRA Congregation
Rev. Fr. Leonard C. Rebeiro – Administrator, The Chittagong Catholic Archdiocese
Rev. Fr. Gordon Dias – Member of College of Consultors, The Chittagong Catholic Archdiocese
Most Rev. James Romen Boiragi, DD – Bishop of Khulna Diocese
Rev. Jacob S. Biswas – Vicar General of Khulna Diocese
Rev. Fr. Martin Mondol – Rector, St. Francis Xavier Seminary, Khulna
Sr. Alice Zacharias (Berchmans), SC – In charge, Sisters of Charity, Santa Maria Sick Assistance Centre, Khulna
Sr. Lorrin (MC) – In charge, Nirmola Shishua Biaban, Missionaries of Charity, Khulna
Sr. Clara Gharami (OSL) – Regional Superior, Luigine Sisters Bethania House, Khulna
Most Rev. Gervas Rozario, DD – Bishop of Rajshahi Catholic Diocese
Fr. Paul Gomes – Vicar General of Rajshahi Catholic Diocese
Fr. William Murmu – Chancellor of Rajshahi Catholic Diocese
Most Rev. Dr. Justin Gnanapragasam – Bishop of Jaffna; Chairman, Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC
Sr. Victoria Embate – On behalf of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Philippine Unit
Sr. Riffat Sadiq – Leader, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pakistan Unit
Sr. Shahnaz Barkat – Secretary, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Pakistan Unit
Fr. Renzo De Luca, SJ – Provincial, Province of Japan, Society of Jesus
Fr. Antonio Moreno, SJ – President, Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific
Fr Greg Soetomo, SJ – Socius, Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific
Fr. Stephen Chow, SJ – Provincial, Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus
Dr. Joseph Xavier, SJ – Director, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore
Fr. David Solomon, SJ – Director, Bagaicha Social Centre, Ranchi
Bispo Naudal Alves Gomes – Bispo Primaz do Brasil, Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil
Rev. Dr. Darío Barolin – Secretario Executivo, Alianza de Iglesias Presbiterianas y Reformadas de América Latina
Mara Manzoni Luz – Regional Director, Centro Regional Ecuménico de Asesoría y Servicio (CREAS)
Fr. Roberto Jaramillio, SJ – President, Jesuit Conference of Latin America and Caribbean (CPAL)
Rafael Soares de Oliveira – Executive Director, KOINONIA Presença Ecumênica e Serviço
Cibele Kuss – Secretária Executiva, Fundação Luterana de Diaconia (FLD)
Lic Nicolás Rosenthal – Executive Director, Fundación Protestante Hora de Obrar
Waneska Bonfim – Coordenadora, Diaconia – Brasil
Mg. Milton Mejía – Coordenador, Qonakuy
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, SJ – Archbishop of Luxembourg; President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE)
Most Rev. Leo Wagener – Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Luxembourg
Abbot Patrick Muller – Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Luxembourg
Most Rev. Stephan Burger – Archbishop of Freiburg im Breisgau
Most Rev. Heiner Wilmer, SCI – Bishop of Hildesheim; Lead Bishop of the German Bishops' Conference for Justice and Peace
Mgr. Ron van den HoutMgr. Ron van den Hout - Referent bishop for mission and development cooperation, Bishops' Conference of the Netherlands
Abbot Bernardus Peeters, ocso – President, National Conference of the Dutch Religious (representing 3,500 female and male religious in the Netherlands)
Sr. Monica Raassen, crss – Vice-President, National Conference of the Dutch Religious
Fr Franck Janin, SJ – President, Jesuit Conference of European Provincials
Fr. Antonio España, SJ – Provincial, Spanish Jesuit Province
Fr. Miguel Almeida, SJ – Provincial, Portuguese Jesuit Province
Fr. Dr. Bernhard Bürgler, SJ – Provincial, Austrian Jesuit Province
Fr. Jan Roser, SJ – Provincial, German Jesuit Province
Msgr. Lode Van Hecke – évêque de Gand (Belgique)
Most Rev. Jean-Pierre Delville – Bishop of Liège
Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj, SJ – Secretary, Social Justice and Ecology for the Society of Jesus
Fr. Christian M. Rutishauser, SJ – Provincial, Jesuits in Switzerland
Fr. Leonard Moloney, SJ – Provincial, Jesuit Irish Province
Fr. Peter Rožič, SJ – Director, Jesuit European Social Centre
Sr. Grace Redmond – South West Provincial, Presentation Sisters in Ireland
Sr. Grace McKernan – Presentation Leadership Team, South West Province, Ireland
Sr. Eileen Clear – Presentation Leadership Team, South West Province, Ireland
Sr. Pauline Casey - Presentation Leadership Team, South West Province, Ireland
Sr. Mary Hanrahan – North East Provincial, Presentation Sisters in Ireland
Sr. Aurea Dias – Presentation Sister, Monasterevin, Ireland
Inmaculada Soler Giménez – Coordinadora General Villa Teresita
Sr. Julie Watson – Congregational Leader, Union of Sisters of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Rt. Rev. William Nolan – Bishop of Galloway; President of Justice & Peace Scotland
Rt. Rev. Joseph Toal – Bishop of Motherwell; Bishop President of SCIAF
Rt. Rev. John Arnold – Bishop of Salford; Chair of CAFOD
Fr. Damian Howard, SJ – Provincial, Jesuits in Britain
Bob Fyffe – General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland
Sr. Eileen Keating – Provincial Leader, English Province of Presentation Sisters
Sr. Justine Mulcahy, PBVM
Sr. Margaret Finnegan, PBVM
Rev. Susan C. Johnson – National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Rt. Rev. Richard Bott – Moderator, The United Church of Canada
Carol Zinn, SSJ – Executive Director, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Sr. Georgette Gregory, CSJ – Congregational Leader, Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto
Fr. Erik Oland, SJ – Provincial Superior, Jesuits of Canada
Sr. Theresa Campeau, osu – Community Leader, Ursuline Sisters of Chatham
Sr. Sue Wilson, CSJ – Director, Office for Systemic Justice, Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada
Fr. Ken Thorson, OMI – Provincial, OMI Lacombe Canada
Sr. Joan Cronin, GSIC – General Superior, Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
Sr. Elizabeth M. Davis, rsm – Congregational Leader, Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy of Newfoundland
Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John's, NL, Canada
The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul (Canada)
IBVM (Loretto Sisters) Canada
Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ – President, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Sr. Sheila Hammond, RSCJ – Provincial, United States-Canada Province, Society of the Sacred Heart
Margaret Perron, RJM – Provincial, US Province of the Religious of Jesus and Mary
Sr. Julie Kubasak, DC – Provincial Superior, Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul
Sr. Katherine Fennell, PBVM – Provincial Leader, Union of Presentation Sisters (USA Unit)
Sr Carmen Hernandez, PBVM – Congregational Leader, Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Sr. Maureen G. Erdlen, SSJ – Congregational President, Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA
Province Leadership Team – Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet, Albany NY Province
Fr. Ted Penton, SJ – Secretary of Justice and Ecology, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Rev. Raymond Finch, MM – Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
Sr. Nonie Gutzler, MM – Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic
Sr. Diane Bardol, GNSH – Social Justice Coordinator, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart
Justice Team – Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sarah Nash, IMH Associate – Coordinator of the Justice, Peace and Sustainability Office, Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Sr. Toby Lardie – Pastoral Leader, Sisters of the Humility of Mary
Sr. Jean Steffes, CSA – Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes
Sr. Rosemarie Abate – Sisters, Home Visitors of Mary
Leadership Team – Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Western Province
Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids
Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Western American Area
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership
USA Adorers of the Blood of Christ
Sr. Alessandra Smerilli, FMA – Coordinator, Economy Taskforce of the Vatican Commission for Covid-19
Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri – Deputy General Secretary, World Council of Churches
Most Rev. Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon – Secretary General, Anglican Communion
Bishop Ivan M Abrahams – General Secretary, World Methodist Council
Rev. Dr. Chris Ferguson – General Secretary, World Communion of Reformed Churches
Sr. Helen Burke, PBVM – Congregational Leader, Union of Presentation Sisters
Rev Dr Collin Cowan – General Secretary, Council for World Mission
Mr Rudelmar Bueno de Faria – General Secretary, ACT Alliance – Action by Churches Together
Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ – International Director, Jesuit Refugee Service