IFCO / Pastors for Peace Condemns US Provocations Against Cuba

US-Cuba relations have plummeted to a new low. The Bush administration has self-righteously led a chorus of criticism against Cuba, while keeping the US public in the dark concerning a campaign of provocation against Cuba.  Subsequently, the sovereign Cuba government has seen fit to arrest approximately 80 people for a variety of offenses and to execute three people. It is essential that we understand the US government's disingenuous role in this operation.

While the world's attention has been riveted to events surrounding the build up and subsequent invasion of Iraq, the US has launched a series of hostile actions to undermine Cuba, promote terrorism, destabilize its economy and instigate treason.  

For nearly two years, US hostility towards Cuba has steadily increased. With the US economy in shambles, the Bush administration will be heavily dependent on Florida, the US base of terrorist anti-Cuban activity, to win a second term. This campaign, waged on diplomatic, economic and political fronts is part of that intentional strategy.  

While the world waits to see which Middle Eastern country is the next invasion target, the Cuban people are justifiably concerned that Cuba could be next.    

Recently, a group of armed men were convicted of hijacking a passenger ferry. Their actions put the lives of dozens of men, women and children in danger. They were convicted of terrorism under Cuban law,  implemented in the wake of more than 40 years of sabotage and assault by terrorist groups supported and funded by the US government. Regrettably, three of the ferry hijackers were executed. 

As a faith-based organization, IFCO/Pastors for Peace has opposed the death penalty for more than 35 years. This opposition includes the 71 executions carried out in the US in 2002, the 152 executions carried out while George W. Bush was governor of Texas, the eight executions of youth offenders in Texas, and the three executions in Cuba.

Cuba's decision to execute three of the hijackers in no way discredits its genuine concerns to prevent the escalation of terrorist actions instigated against it by the US. What Cuba faces at this moment is nothing short of its survival as a nation. It is unconscionable that the US government continues its hypocritical stance against terror; while continuing its aggression and sabotage against Cuba. 

When considering Cuba's response to these events we need to know the context in which Cuba acted.

 


Statement from Church Leaders in Cuba

 

Havana, April 23, 2003
 

To the churches, councils of churches, church leaders, ecumenical organizations and non-governmental organizations of Christian inspiration.

Brothers and sisters-

As disciples of Jesus Christ, like those walking to Emmaus, “the things that have happened” have increased the need for accompaniment of That Third Pilgrim who, using to Scriptures, “beginning with Moses and continuing with the Prophets”, gives light to our minds and brings passion to our hearts, in the midst of a renewed encounter with the community of faith and with the people, where God has placed us as the Church.

In the last few weeks we have witnessed with deep pain and concern how the US Government and its President have unleashed an unnecessary war of destruction and occupation of Iraq that caused anguish, suffering, and the death of thousands of civilians. The President of the United States did this without taking into account the clamor of the overwhelming majority of international public opinion, and of the leaders of many churches, including those of his own denomination, not listening to honest voices from his own people, and without acknowledging the United Nations and the norms of international law.  What is truly worrisome is, above all, the behavior of the United States as a hegemonic superpower, without control or boundaries of any kind.

On the other hand, we have observed how the current US administration has increased hostilities towards Cuba by including it on the list of nations that sponsor terrorism and unjustly accusing it, only a few months ago, of manufacturing biological arms.  All of this worries us.  At the same time, in recent statements, the US ambassador in the Dominican Republic, Hans Hertell openly stated that the intervention in Iraq is “a very positive sign and is a very good example for Cuba”. He also mentioned that the actions in the Arab country were just the beginning of “a crusade of liberation that will cover all countries in the world, including Cuba”.  Furthermore, the Secretary of Defense of the United States, responding whether there would be a war against Cuba answered: “Not for now.”  The groups of the extreme right wing located in Miami are asking the Bush Administration for a naval blockade, and at the same time are taking to the streets with the slogan: “Iraq now, Cuba later.”

All of this, together with the events of the last few days: the hijackings of two airplanes and a boat, and other failed attempts, as well as the activities of the head of the US Interests Section in Havana  who fosters groups that receive the financing, support, and protection of the US government, and who personally organizes opposition political parties  give reason to suppose that a state of opinion is being created, through the mass media and the propaganda of the groups of the extreme right wing in the US, favoring military aggression towards Cuba, to implement the same “preventative strike” policy and actions for a “regime change” that was actually what they did in Iraq.

We believe that we find ourselves in a moment of serious threat for the security and integrity of our nation.  We also believe that what is intended is to find pretexts to launch another war of aggression.  A policy of undeclared war,  of a reinforcement of the blockade, of subversion and provocation, of instigated terrorist acts and stimulated massive illegal migration, with the intention of creating favorable conditions for a military intervention has been unfolding before our eyes.

We as the Church not only have the responsibility to look after our congregations and parishioners, but also to fulfill the mission that God has called us to carry out in our motherland.  We try to act, as a Church of Jesus Christ, with a sense of responsibility and discernment, by providing pastoral accompaniment to the people we are a part of and with which we share these difficult times. 

We are determined to carry out our evangelizing and prophetic mission by criticizing all that, in our judgment, is poorly done, so that we may contribute to the betterment of our society.  We have done this as well on this occasion, making use of the spaces of dialogue with our people and our authorities that have always been open, not only to the Cuban Churches, but also to brothers and sisters everywhere that have accompanied us all these years. 

In the same way, as part of this evangelizing and prophetic mission, we attempt to give testimony of the signs of The Kingdom amongst us, of the life and the hopes in Jesus Christ that, first of all, consists and will always consist of defending and proclaiming Truth and Justice. 

We deeply regret the violent acts of the last few weeks and we feel, in the love of Christ, compassion for the people that were detained and condemned, as well as for their families.  We are open, as we do with other people that have been imprisoned, to give them spiritual comfort, as an imperative of the Gospel. 

The Scriptures also call us to a prophetic and pastoral understanding of those who govern and watch out for the destiny of our country, that in this dangerous and dramatic the situation have implemented the laws to the most severe.

Almost at the same time as the legal processes against people accused of activities at the service of a foreign power and linked to the US Interests Section in Havana, the hijackers of a passenger boat were tried, and three of them were sentenced to death.  Some of the powerful international mass media have not adequately differentiated the nature that distinguishes the two events, causing confusion in no small number of people.  To honor the truth we must say that the nature of the crimes was of a different character and thus received different legal treatment and different sanctions.

We reject the death penalty and are deeply sorry that by implementing it the moratorium that has been maintained by the Cuban government, in practice, has been broken. This we have said to the authorities.  We identify ourselves with the pain of the families.  Life is a gift from God and nobody has the right to take it. 

We recognize the extreme seriousness of the crimes of piracy and terrorism, especially for the children, women, the elderly and sick people who were victims of the hijacking, and we also recognize the implications of this in the context where these events took place.

Dear brothers and sisters, we live in highly dangerous times.  All of us who love Life, Peace, and Justice, must act with wisdom and love in order to try to avoid the disasters that besiege us. 

Our sense of responsibility stops us from joining the campaign led by some mass media that respond to the interests of the superpower that wants to dominate the world.  This is, in essence, a symphony for war.  The evangelic wisdom demanded by the current times leads us to believe that the transnational media agencies have turned a genocide into a holy war; that they have tried to hide the real and dramatic consequences of the war against the Iraqi people; and that they never echoed the clamor of people and institutions of good will, including the general rejection to the war.  Now they desperately gather statements of all those who have given their opinion, sometimes honestly, sometimes not, about the recent events in Cuba, in order to contribute to a climate of favorable opinion for their interests, and deny the God of Peace that we confess to. 

From our Cuban reality, and as Christians who try every day to proclaim and to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our country and in the midst of our people, we call all our brothers and sisters in the world to a pastoral reflection and discernment of the Spirit about the dangers that besiege the Cuban people. We also call you to continue accompanying us with your understanding and your prayers, and to work together to warn the government of the United States about the unpredictable consequences of military aggression towards our country.  We are open to welcome and receive you into our congregations, and willing to reflect together biblically and theologically under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and under the light of “the things that have happened between us”. 

Let us pray and work together for Peace! 

Dr. Reinerio Arce Valentín, President of the Cuban Council of Churches(CCC).
Ms. María Yi Reina, First Vice-President of the CCC
Rev. Obed Martínez , Vice-President of the CCC.
Ms. Rhode González Zorrilla, Vice-President of the CCC.
Rev. Pedro Jiménez Celorio,  Vice-President of the CCC.
Rev. Miguel Marcial Hernández, Executive Secretary of the CCC.
Rev. Esther Quintero Labrada, Secretary of Organization of the CCC.
Rev.Pedro Mayor, Treasurer of the CCC.
Rev. Orestes González Cruz, President of Honor of the CCC, Vice Moderator of the National Synod of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba.
Honorable Canon Oden Marichal Rodríguez, Former President of the CCC and Rector of the Episcopal Parish “Fieles a Jesús”.
Rev. Dr. Pedro Triana, Director of the Study Center of the CCC.
Rev. Raúl Suárez Ramos, Director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center.
Rev. Dora Arce Valentín, Moderator of the National Synod of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba.
Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega Suárez, Pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba.
Rev. Juan Ramón de la Paz, Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral “Santísima Trinidad”.
Rev. Raimundo García Franco, Director of the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue.
Rev. Estela Hernández Márquez, Pastor of the “William Carey” Baptist Church, Director of the “Juan Francisco Naranjo” Center, and Director of the “Frank Pais” Brigade.
Dr. Sergio Arce Martínez, Retired Pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, Emeritus Professor of the Matanzas Evangelical Seminary of Theology.
Rev. Carlos M. Piedra López, Director of the Ecumenical Information Center “Augusto Cotto”.
Rev. Nerva Cot, Canon of the Episcopal Cathedral.
Mr.Joel Suárez Rodes, General Coordinator of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center.
Rev. Erelio Martínez García, Vice-President of the Christian Reformed Church in Cuba.
Ms. Rhode Tabares Espinosa, National President of the Christian Students Movement.
 


Pastors for Peace founder, Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr.

Plaza of the Revolution, Havana, Cuba, May 1, 2003  

Dear Commander Fidel Castro,
Dear religious leaders here present, and
Dear people of Cuba:

I come to you today as a pastor; I come representing Pastors for Peace.  I come to stand with our sisters and brothers in Cuba, in the midst of the worst provocation by any US administration in history.  But I come to declare that you are loved, respected, appreciated, and supported by millions of US citizens who oppose our government's hostility, provocation, and breaches of diplomatic norms.

Your US friends for whom I am privileged to speak today are true friends, not fair-weather friends.  We have stood with you in the past; we are standing with you now in this present moment of crisis and attack by the US; and we will stand with you in the future, no matter what the cost.  We have full confidence in your integrity.  We affirm the beautiful values and principles the Cuban people adhere to.  We join your nation in your struggle against US terrorism, because the people of Cuba represent hope and help and healing for the people of the world.  We join you now because you deserve our friendship.  But we also join you because the world needs Cuba.

Now, speaking also as a pastor and a friend of Cuba, I sincerely plead with Cuba to abolish the death penalty.  Of course other nations have the death penalty -- 137 others, including the United States itself.  But Cuba is different from other nations.  Cuba has taken a path which distinguishes it for its outstanding concern for the welfare of human life.  No other nation is the provider of free health care to the world.  No other nation is the provider of free education to lift the minds of the citizens of the world.  Cuba, you are a world leader in human rights and respect for life.  And the death penalty demeans Cuba.  You are better than that.  So I call on Cuba to, by example, lead a world campaign to end the death penalty. 

As a pastor, and as a citizen of the United States, I sincerely plead with my own government to cease its hypocritical lies and distortions about Cuba's human rights record -- for in fact the United States itself is the worst violator of human rights in this hemisphere.

As a pastor for peace, I plead with my own government to stop labeling Cuba as a terrorist state -- when in fact the US harbors and finances terrorists, criminals, indeed murderers of Cuban citizens, allowing them to openly operate terrorist training camps and freely walk the streets of South Florida with the stated purpose of being terrorists to overthrow the Cuban government.

As a pastor for peace, I call on my government to stop encouraging illegal migration, and to abide by the 1995 immigration accords. 

I call on my government to release the five heroic Cubans jailed in the US for the "crime" of detecting and reporting the plans of US-based terrorism against Cuba. 

In the face of all these wrongs, you, beloved, beautiful Cuban people, have maintained a high moral position; you have remained disciplined and vigilant.  You must continue to take the high moral ground. 

The pastor in me inspires me to believe that Jesus was describing Cuba 2003, even when he spoke from the mountain in Galilee, saying:
 

        Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be satisfied.
        Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
        Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
        Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
        Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and order all kinds of evils against you falsely.
        Rejoice and be glad, for great will be your reward.
 

Cuba, you are a blessed people.  Cuba, you, out of your love and humanity, bless the world.  You are the light of the world. 

So hold on!
Hold on to your vision;
Hold on to your dreams;
Hold on to your values;
Hold on to your revolution. 

Know that 'weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.'


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