Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI

Debt Relief

Debt relief for the most impoverished nations

Having been involved as missionaries for 30 years in the rural zone of Nicaragua, our Sisters experienced first hand the harsh burdens that foreign debt placed on the majority of Nicaraguans.  International loans with high rates of interest prevented the government from spending on education, health care, and infrastructure of the country.  We came to realize that direct aid and self-help programs -- though necessary -- were not adequate in alleviating deep poverty in the country.  We realized that in a world the gap between rich and poor (both individuals and countries) continued to expand. The only way to achieve justice and peace was to change the systems that placed profits or power ahead of human rights and the well-being of all people and the earth.

Every 50 years, the biblical tradition (Leviticus, chapter 25) calls for a year of Jubilee when slaves are to be set free and debts canceled.  As the year 2000 approached, Pope John Paul II called on the international community to reduce the oppressive debts of the most impoverished nations.  In support of his call, numerous faith communities organized a movement (Jubilee 2000) that called on rich countries to lift the heavy burden of foreign debts that trapped poor nations at the bottom of the global economy.  Our Sisters supported the movement through a corporate stance on debt forgiveness.  We pledged to learn about, pray and advocate for the cancellation of the unpayable debts held by the most impoverished countries.  In return, these poor countries - including Nicaragua -- were to invest the savings in human development and other programs benefiting the poor of their nations.

Our work on debt relief is not yet accomplished.  Foreign debt payments of highly indebted poor countries remain a critical barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Set by the United Nations in 2000, these goals aim to reduce poverty by half by 2015.

Please join the movement to alleviate the foreign debt burdens of many poor countries.

What you can do

  • Pray that the economic gap between richer and poorer countries becomes smaller.
  • Learn about the economic burdens that countries, international lending institutions and national banks place on poor countries and why they cannot then provide for basic needs of their citizens.
  • Assess your attitude toward foreign assistance as well as countries and persons who live in poverty.
  • Act with organizations that are working to form a more just global economy.
  • Advocate for debt forgiveness for those countries that have an unsustainable debt.


  1. Jubilee USA Network advocates for debt forgiveness with international lending institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and regional banks of Africa and Latin America.
  2. Bread for the World is a Christian coalition that seeks to transform federal policy related to food security at home and abroad.
  3. Catholic Relief Services is the U. S. Catholic Church's official humanitarian assistance agency. It also advocates for alleviating poverty through debt forgiveness.