Nov. 3 webinar to offer insight from international and domestic partners of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Global debt systems are driving poverty in struggling countries

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — A virtual discussion exploring the connection between poverty and global debt systems will be held noon Eastern Time on Thursday, Nov. 3, by various ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and their partners.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program (PHP), the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW) and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) have teamed up for the webinar, “Debt, Disaster and Corruption,” to offer a theological understanding of debt as well as how global debt systems contribute to the cycle of poverty in struggling countries.

“In the work we do with our international partners to reduce hunger and poverty, we have seen for decades how uncontrolled debt can stunt the development of many countries and keep their citizens in absolute poverty,” said Valéry Nodem, Program Associate for International Hunger Concerns. “The collective work of PHP, OPW and PDA aims to raise awareness of the danger that unsustainable debt represents for low-income countries and also to organize actions to alleviate and cancel the debt of poor countries.”

The webinar will take place on Zoom. Registration is open at

The virtual discussion will feature four guest speakers: the Rev. Amaury Tanon-Santos, executive director and chief executive officer of the Schenectady Community Ministries; Aldo Caliari, senior director of policy and strategy for Jubilee USA Network; Sarala Emmanuel of the Feminist Collective for Economic Justice in Sri Lanka; and the Rev. Heriberto Martinez-Rivera, general secretary of the Puerto Rico Bible Society and chair of the Puerto Rico Ecumenical Coalition on Debt.

Valéry Nodem

The event, which is the first in a series of global debt webinars, is the PMA ministries’ latest project with Jubilee USA, an interfaith, non-profit alliance of religious, development and advocacy organizations working to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality in our communities and countries around the world.

“The Office of Public Witness along with the Hunger Program have been partners in the campaign for global debt relief for decades,” said Catherine Gordon, OPW Representative for International Issues. “Our work with the Jubilee USA Network to pass legislation for debt relief for the poorest countries was a historic success for the faith community. PDA has also become a partner in the work to relieve the debt of poor countries faced with significant disasters. With the growing indebtedness of more countries due to pandemic loans and interest rates increases, there has never been a more urgent time for debt relief.”

The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo of PDA noted how pertinent the topic is today as Puerto Rico and other areas continue to feel the effects of multiple disasters in recent years, such as Hurricane Maria.

“Puerto Rico’s crisis didn’t start with Hurricane María, but with a weak infrastructure, a government in disarray, and a growing debt that is impossible to pay back,” said González-Castillo, Associate for Disaster Response in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Like many disasters, Hurricane María revealed how this accrued debt incapacitated the government’s response and added to the downward spiral the people of Puerto Rico continue to experience.”

The Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance are among the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The work of PHP and PDA is made possible by gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

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