‘Debt Is a Form of Slavery’

The Archbishop of Canterbury addresses the Credit Union Foundation on June 11 at Westminster:

We are beginning to see real change. But we need to be realistic that what we’re trying to do is not a quick flash in the pan, but an effort to build a whole new financial sector that for many years has not been in existence in this country, excluding some of the poorest in our society from the basic necessity of effective financial services. If people don’t have that, there’s lots of other things they can’t do about job creation and work and training and all kinds of other things.

From a Christian point of view, within the context of the church, this drive that we feel to engage 16,000 parish churches and 8,500 full-time stipendiary clergy in this springs from our sense of our faith. There’s a story that Jesus tells of two debtors, one who owes a huge sum of money, one who owes a little. The one who owes a huge sum of money is summoned by his creditor, who says, ‘You’re going to pay or you’re going to prison.’ The guy begs for forgiveness and gets it, and goes away and beats up the guy who owes him a little sum of money in order to get repaid, and Jesus points out the injustice of that.

There are a lot of meanings to that parable, but one of them is that debt is a form of slavery — and debt to a bad lender is a particularly unendurable form of slavery. The credit unions are trying to be the merciful lender, the one who has a clear system of values and ethics, and builds what they do around a value of the common good.

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Image by doctor_bob9, via morgueFile

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