I’ve always admired the Quakers. Over the years, I’ve read about how this group is always in the forefront of social issues in the last 200 years of American history: they were in the forefront of the abolitonist movement, the right of women to vote, the antiwar movement. I attended 2 Quaker services about 3 years ago and was impressed with the spirituality and quietness of their service. The American Friends Service Committee is a group that tries to put Quaker values into action, in our country and around the world. In the area of global poverty, I looked up their website and found them very involved in economic justice issues, especially in the area of debt relief for nations in Africa. In their website http://www.afsc.org/africa-debt/learn-about-debt/debt-faq.htm the AFSC explains why they focus on this area in the effort to combat global poverty:
“According to analysts, Sub-Saharan Africa, economically the world’s poorest region, but carries US$201 billion in debt and pays $14 billion annually in debt servic
Paying billions of dollars a year in debt service takes away from Africa’s already scarce resources to invest in economic development, job creation, education, and health care. With some 300 million people living on less than $1 a day in Africa, approximately 38 million are facing a hunger crisis. Adding to this, with only 10% of the world’s population, approximately 60% of the world’s HIV/AIDS cases (25.8 million) are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.
There is now a clear record of success of debt relief going to fight poverty. Many nations have already put plans into action to ensure the proper use of the released funds. They have demonstrated their commitment to use the funds to fight poverty and illness, and to promote education. Some highlights:
In Ghana, the money saved is being used for basic infrastructure, education, and health care.
In Nigeria, the finance minister Ngozi Ogonzi-Iweala has set up a poverty action fund to channel the proceeds from debt relief with specific expenditures that include training thousands of new teachers.
In Tanzania, debt cancellation allowed the nation to increase education spending and eliminate school fees for elementary school education as well as resources to help with importing vital food supplies for those affected by drought. ”
In addition to debt relief, the AFSC has worked for peaceful resolution of conflicts in such areas as Kenya, and the Great Lakes region of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Christians like Archbishop Desmond Tutu have endorsed AFSC efforts for debt relief and this could be a way to promote interdenominational cooperation in a multi front effort to fight global poverty.