The year 2000 has come and gone, but the religious based social justice movement known as “Jubilee 2000” that was inaugurated at the turn of the millennium may be getting its second wind.
The Jubilee 2000 movement was based on the single issue of debt relief for the poorest countries, drawing inspiration from the Hebrew Scriptures’ injunctions to forgive debtors during certain periods. In the Jesuit magazine America (June 18), William Bole writes that the movement has succeeded, with victories in Congress for debt relief and with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund making at least some debt cancellations (the movement caught on the strongest in “largely de-Christianized” England, he notes).
Now there is talk of prolonging the energies of the movement to tackle further debt cancellation as well as a possible program called Jubilee Plus, which would target the “root causes” of Third World debt. In any event, the movement is viewed as a model of social action because it is “issue-focused, non-ideological and faith-based,” writes Bole. Just how Jubilee 2000 is being reinterpreted and extended into a permanent movement and even a theology can be seen in an article by Palestinian Lutheran Bishop Munib A. Younan in Theology, News and Notes, (Spring) a magazine of Fuller Seminary.
Younan writes that the Jubilee is an “all-encompassing vision of social and ecological justice, which calls for release from bondage, redistribution of land and wealth, and renewal of the earth.” Just as the original Jubilee called for land reform, Younan writes that the Jubilee theology should lead to the restoration of land to the Palestinians. A two-states solution and a shared Jerusalem is a practical outworking of such a theology, according to Younan.
Meanwhile, the magazine Religion in the News (Spring), a publication of the Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, finds that “for the most part, the U.S. news media passed on the story” of Jubilee 2000. While the European media gave the movement significant coverage, viewing it as a significant religion inspired phenomenon, American journalists either failed to notice it at all or ignored its religious participation and inspiration. Even when the media covered the pope’s declarations of 2000 as a jubilee year, they neglected to cite John Paul’s central issue of debt relief.
Writer Dennis Hoover concludes that the high profile entertainers involved in Jubilee 2000 events, such as musician Bono, may have stolen the show from its grassroots activists.
(America, 106 W. 56th St., New York, NY 10019; Religion in the News, Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106; Theology, News and Notes, 135 North Oakland Ave., Pasadena, CA 91182)