The Conference of Churches in Grenada and the Caribbean Debt Network just completed a two days conference with religious leaders on sovereign debt relief in the region with particular focus on the effect sovereign debt has on the most vulnerable members of society.
28 participants representing 9 countries and 6 religious denominations/organisations took part along with representatives of the Conference of Churches in Grenada, the Caribbean Conference of Churches and the Government of Grenada in a two-day Sovereign Debt Conference for Caribbean Religious Leaders.
The theme of the conference was “Together in Promoting a Just Indebtedness Workout.” The conference was held at “The Upper Room”, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Grand Anse, St. George’s, Grenada on 20th and 21st October 2015.
The Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Nicolas Girasoli attended the first session and pledged the support of the Holy See for the process which, he emphasised, must be seen as promoting justice and development. The Prime Minister of Grenada, the Hon. Keith Mitchell made a brief visit during which he expressed his appreciation for part the Conference of Churches in Grenada has played in the working out of Grenada’s sovereign debt and pledged to support the “Jubilee” process in region through his contacts with other political leaders.
The resource person from the United Nations Development Programme, Ms. Gail Hurley, delivered her presentation by means of an interactive Skype communication.
Mr. Jurgen Kaiser provided the technical and statistical data on the indebtedness of countries in the region and on the initiatives that have already been taken by other agencies to help resolve the situation. He also outlined the possibilities that exist for initiatives and cooperation among the churches and other groupings around the issue of resolving the problem of over indebtedness.
Mr. Eric LeCompte of Jubilee U.S.A. spoke of the role of the church and the origins and history of the global Jubilee movement.
Much of the time was spent in intense discussion on a public statement that would be issued by this conference. Since the problem of over indebtedness is common to most of the countries of the region the need for solidarity and mutual cooperation among churches and civil society organisations a decision was taken, again after much discussion, on the formation of “Jubilee Caribbean”, an organisation that would replace the existing Caribbean Debt Network.
Additional to the already existing Jubilee committee in Grenada, bishops and other representatives of churches from Jamaica, Dominica, Antigua & Barbuda, St.Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad &Tobago committed to gather their respective constituencies and discuss with them the setting up of national chapters of the regional network. A stock taking of this process is envisaged for end-January 2016 through a tele-conference. The merits and necessary efforts of setting-up a co-ordinating secretariat will be discussed then.
A three day workshop on “DEBT RELIEF in the Caribbean : a Grenada Perspective”, organised by the Conference of Churches in Grenada, ended on Friday 24 May 2013. The participants were religious leaders, members of community organisations and newly formed Caribbean Debt Network (CDN) representatives from St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Dominica.
The workshop participants took as the basis of their involvement the biblical concept of JUBILEE (Leviticus 25). Its prescription of debt forgiveness in order to avoid creating a permanent underclass or poor in the time of the Old testament is as pertinent as ever in the Caribbean context today. People once marginalized; due to natural disaster, lack of a good paying job, poor health and lasting disabilities or lack of proper education; have it very difficult to take their rightful place back in our fast moving societies. As a consequence of the parents condition, their children do not get the opportunity to feed, cloth and educate themselves properly.
This is also true with vulnerable small state nations as ours. Once an island get sucked into this spiral of sovereign debt, health and education are the first national priorities to suffer. In the end the poor are the ones paying the debts and foreign loans.