World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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E-mail: media

29 January - 6 February 2001
Potsdam, Germany

31 January 2001

Foreign debt is economic plunder, says Argentine church leader

Foreign debt is an evil that binds poor countries in eternal poverty and rewards powers "not concerned with life but with profit," an Argentinian bishop told his fellow World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee members.

Bishop Aldo Manuel Etchegoyen of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina was part of a panel discussion on global economic issues during the WCC Central Committee’s meeting Tuesday (30 January) in Potsdam, Germany.

In a press conference following the meeting, Etchegoyen refused to respond to questions as to whether poor countries should default on their burdensome foreign debt.

But he stressed that the debt is "immoral and unjust" and causes untold poverty and misery. And for the most part, he said, it has fallen to the church to call attention to the problem.

"No political party in America or Europe has spoken out as clearly as the World Council of Churches," Etchegoyen told journalists. "The most clear voices against the tremendous injustice have been from churches. The clearest documents do not come from the politicians."

Rogate Mshana, a WCC staff member responsible for speaking out on economic rights issues, added that the Council is engaged in a number of studies, conferences and dialogues on globalisation and other economic issues. The WCC staff has been in dialogue with staff of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, Mshana said.

Another Central Committee panelist, Mrs. Ngoyi Mukuna Misenga of the Church of Christ in Congo, told the 158-member body that economic globalisation "is against the will of God and human dignity."

Others who addressed the Central Committee on the topic included Dr. Agnes Abuom, Anglican Church of Kenya, one of the eight presidents of the WCC; Claudia Greifenhahn who manages a fair trade association of shops and restaurants in Dresden, Germany; and Rev. Septemmy E. Lakawa, Protestant Church in South-East Sulawesi, Indonesia.

All three women urged the churches to join together to oppose globalisation and to express solidarity with the poor and marginalised.

In the press conference following the morning session, Mrs. Mukuna suggested church people in debtor nations should become more involved in local political affairs. "The population has to be properly informed by the churches" about the effects of foreign debt on their daily lives, she suggested to journalists. "It’s evangelism. In our context we have tried to transform the Gospel" to encourage people to "be genuinely involved in handling local matters."

Archbishop Anastasios, Orthodox Autoceplalous Church of Albania, suggested to Central Committee members that some lifestyle changes may be necessary before churches criticise others. He called upon church members to lead "a life of simplicity and poverty" so they could speak with moral authority on global economic problems.

"Many of us have this temptation to speak for the poor and live like the rich," Anastasios noted.

Photos from the Central Committee

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.