Social Justice Advocacy as a Lenten Practice: Debt Relief and Farm Worker Protections

February 16, 2005

"If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday… you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in." – Isaiah 58: 10,12 -- Old Testament Lesson for Ash Wednesday, Book of Common Prayer

The Prayer Book’s first reading for Ash Wednesday reminds us of our call to enter into God’s work of jubilee and reconciliation in the world. In response to this, the Episcopal Church and many other faith traditions remain deeply committed to the principle of debt cancellation for the world’s most impoverished countries. Also, the Church has been part of the coalition working for legislation to better the deplorable circumstances facing immigrant farm workers.

During the past decade, initial debt relief has allowed developing countries to achieve important successes in HIV/AIDS-treatment, access to education, the provision of clean water and other essential aspects of the Millennium Development Goals. The Episcopal Church’s advocates have played a key role in passage of previous debt relief legislation. CLICK here for more information and to read about these successes.

In order to build upon this work, however, significantly deeper debt relief is needed. When the finance ministers for the world’s seven richest nations (the so-called G7) met in London earlier this month, they officially reached agreement to work toward 100% cancellation of debts owed by the world's poorest countries to international lenders. However, they did not reach agreement on how to pay for debt cancellation. Major divisions in the G7 persist – particularly between the United States and the United Kingdom – and significant work remains if a concrete plan for debt cancellation is to be adopted this year. CLICK HERE to send a message to your lawmakers encouraging them to work with the White House to provide American leadership.

The Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefit and Security Act of 2005 (AgJOBS), sponsored by Senators Craig (R-ID) and Kennedy (D-MA) and negotiated by multiple agricultural employer groups and farm worker organizations, was supported by more than 420 national, state and local organizations during the last Congress. Many religious and faith-based organizations committed to bettering the deplorable circumstances facing immigrant farm workers are supporting this bi-partisan measure (S.359). Senate co-sponsors are needed.

S. 359 will improve working conditions and wages for farm workers—workers who often suffer from low pay and poor working conditions—while giving agricultural employers a legalized workforce. Click here for more information or to contact your Senators today.

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