Faith Groups 'Stand Up' with Millions Worldwide Against Poverty

Congregations and faith communities around the United States are taking this Sunday to focus on the principles of Jubilee – a time when those enslaved because of debts are freed, lands lost because of debt are returned, and community is restored.

In observance of Jubilee Sunday, participants will be specifically dedicating part of their time to pray together for global economic justice, deepen their communities understanding of the debt issue, and take concrete action for debt cancellation for all impoverished countries.

Participating congregations will also be receiving a special offering to support the work of the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of 75 religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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"Without debt cancellation, we will not reach the Millennium Development Goals in time," says Hayley Hathaway, operations and communications coordinator for the Jubilee USA Network, which annually organizes Jubilee Sunday.

"Right now the world's poorest countries pay rich creditors more than $100 million in debt payments everyday. Can you imagine if this money went toward shelter, education and health care?" she posed.

Though Jubilee Sunday has been held annually for several years now, this year marks the first time that it will be held in conjunction with Stand Up & Take Action, a weekend when people around the world stand up against poverty and in support of the Millennium Development Goals – eight international development goals that 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

Last year, 117 million people took part in Stand Up & Take Action. This year, Jubilee USA and the weekend's sponsor, the UN Millennium Campaign, seek to break that record and send an even louder message to policy-makers around the world.

"Almost 10 years ago, world leaders committed to a bold roadmap to end global poverty and its root causes – beginning with achieving the Millennium Development Goals ," notes Hathaway in her organization's weblog. "This weekend we are all coming together because we know that despite the gains we've made, the global economic crisis is threatening our progress. "

Though worldwide gains were made in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995 and has since escalated to a record-high 1.02 billion.

According to a report released by the World Food Program and FAO, most of the people suffering from chronic hunger are in Asia and the Pacific, where the number has reached 642 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa has the second highest number of chronically hungry people at 265 million, while Latin America, the Caribbean, the Near East and North Africa have about 95 million people.

During their almost 100 events across the country, Stand Up participants are focusing on one part of the poverty puzzle – responsible lending and debt cancellation, which Jubilee USA's Hathaway notes has already brought increased education, healthcare and vital social services for many countries in Africa and Latin America.

"We know that it (achieving the Millennium Development Goals) is possible," says Hathaway. "But too many needy countries have been left out."

As part of their efforts, Stand Up participants will be urging Congress to support the Jubilee Act, a bill that calls for expanded debt cancellation to help all the poor countries that need it to reach the MDGs.

For its part, Jubilee USA is calling upon congregations – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim – to order and sign postcards as part of its "Change, Not Chains" postcard campaign in support of the Jubilee Act, adding their voice to millions across the globe speaking out against global poverty.

"This weekend, all over the world we are going to pledge our commitments to fighting global poverty. Let's continue to work to break the chains of international debt," concludes Hathaway.

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