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Jubilee Weekend is an opportunity for advocacy Oct. 15-17

Churches can help promote vaccine equity and strategies against poverty

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

“We mobilize our members to take action to help build an economy that serves, protects and promotes participation of the most vulnerable,” said Stefanie Ostfeld, managing director of the Jubilee USA Network. (Photo by artistlike from Pixabay)

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterians are being encouraged to support a weekend of advocacy by the Jubilee USA Network, a partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that promotes debt relief for poor countries and an equitable distribution of vaccines.

“A COVID Response that Shares Medicine, Ends Poverty and Protects Our Planet” is the theme of this year’s Jubilee Weekend, which will be Oct. 15-17.

“Jubilee Weekend takes place each year, the same weekend as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank meetings. It’s also right before the G20,” a forum of nations with the world’s largest economies, said Stefanie Ostfeld, managing director of the Jubilee USA Network. “At these meetings, world leaders are going to be making important decisions on many COVID-19 efforts, including debt relief, pandemic recovery and equitable vaccine access, so participating in Jubilee Weekend is an opportunity for religious groups to make their voices heard, demonstrating to decision makers these issues are a priority, they matter, and really, calling on them to act on behalf of the vulnerable.”

Anyone interested in participating can sign up on the network’s website to receive a packet of information about ways to get engaged, from holding worship services to calling members of Congress.

The Jubilee USA Network, a partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), promotes debt relief for poor countries and equitable distribution of vaccines. (Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash)

“You could offer one prayer for vaccine distribution or increased aid for developing countries,” Ostfeld said. “A congregation could dedicate a worship service to poverty reduction or debt relief. You can also sign and circulate a petition to policymakers. You could hold a discussion group on these issues.”

Jubilee USA is a coalition of religious, development and advocacy groups that says it has won more than $130 billion in debt relief for the world’s poorest economies.

“We mobilize our members to take action to help build an economy that serves, protects and promotes participation of the most vulnerable,” Ostfeld said.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) recently signed onto a letter with Jubilee that called upon the IMF, the G20 and the White House to take steps — in line with PC(USA) policies — to help vulnerable countries combat COVID-19, said the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA) Advocacy Offices, including OPW and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

President Joe Biden announced this week that the United States would be donating an additional half a billion Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to low- and lower-middle income countries around the globe. That will bring the number of vaccines donated by the United States to more than 1.1 billion.

The PC(USA) Advocacy Offices “are excited by President Biden’s announcement” to purchase and distribute the additional vaccines for impoverished countries, said Hawkins, who also leads a PC(USA) strategic poverty group focused on U.S. anti-poverty organizations. The announcement “is in line with the objectives of the letter and we wholeheartedly support his announcement.”

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins is the director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Advocacy Offices, which include the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. (Photo by Rich Copley)

The PC(USA) Advocacy Offices also support increased economic protections for poor nations that are suffering because of COVID-19, Hawkins said.

“The PC(USA) has a long history in calling for debt relief,” he said. “We were instrumental during the Clinton administration in the call for African debt relief and our (then) director, the Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, was present during the Rose Garden signing.”

For more information about Jubilee Weekend, go here.

To find out how various ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency responded to the pandemic with grants benefitting groups in the United States and abroad, go here.

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations are part of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.


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