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United Methodist Agencies Join in Appeal for US to Lift Ban on Cuba Travel

General Board of Global Ministries
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United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team members work to expand the Methodist Church in Guanabacoa, Cuba.

United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team members work to expand the Methodist Church in Guanabacoa, Cuba.
Image by: James Melchiorre
Source: United Methodist News Service
A work team in Cuba rebuilds a hurricane-damaged home in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.

A work team rebuilds a hurricane-damaged home in the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has made some progress toward obtaining the U.S. Treasury Department licenses required to allow the denomination to assist hurricane survivors in Cuba, according to the Rev. Sam Dixon, head of UMCOR. Dixon reported on the progress Oct. 15 to the relief agency's board of directors, meeting in Stamford, Conn.
Image by: UMNS, courtesy Methodist Church of Cuba
Source: United Methodist News Service

New York, NY, March 31, 2009--A group of Protestant denominations and agencies have asked the Congress of the United States to lift the travel ban that severely limits their interactions with churches in Cuba. Signers include the General Boards of Church and Society and Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.

A common letter to all members of the Senate and House of Representatives asserts that the travel ban--in effect since the days of the Cuban revolution more than 50 years ago--has failed. "It has failed in its stated objective to bring about change in the Cuban political system," the text states, and continues:

As churches and religious institutions with a long history of missionary and humanitarian activity in the nation of Cuba, we have keenly experienced the impact of the travel ban. US churches, mission agencies, and ecumenical organizations at the national and regional levels have suffered from the restrictions, which have reduced their ability to send religious delegations to Cuba and limited opportunities to accompany and support Cuban church partners.

Congregations have considerably greater opportunities to send delegates to Cuba under US policy than do denominational or regional church organizations.

The letter notes that Cuban churches are growing and present new opportunities for US denominations and ecumenical organizations to "support their Christian brothers and sisters in Christ."

Congress recently passed legislation that permits US citizens with relatives in Cuba to visit more often and for longer periods of time than in the past. The relaxation of the restrictions on relative visits did not affect the general travel ban.

The Bush Administration tightly controlled the travel possibilities for many Protestant denominations and their agencies. Licenses for limited travel were not renewed several years ago, including that of the General Board of Global Ministries. The ability of church groups to transfer funds to Cuba for relief and other humanitarian purposes was also restricted. In late 2008, Global Ministries applied for and received a license that permits the United Methodist Committee on Relief to send hurricane disaster relief into Cuba for one year.

The lifting of the travel ban is covered by bills number H.R. 874 in the House and S. 428 in the Senate. The churches' letter asked members of both houses to become sponsors and support the measure.

Earlier, the chief executives of many of the groups endorsing the congressional letter sent an appeal to then President-elect Barack Obama, asking for reform of the US policies on Cuba.

In addition to the two United Methodist agencies, signers of the letter to Congress include the African Methodist Episcopal Church, American Baptist Churches of the USA, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Reformed Church in North America, the Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Also, agencies of the Presbyterian Church USA, the Church of the Brethren, and the United Church of Christ, and the Alliance of Baptists, Church World Service, the Mennonite Central Committee, and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.


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Topic: Ecumenical GBGM news Global connections International affairs Justice Missionaries United Methodist Church Statements
Geographic Region: Cuba
Source: GBGM Press Releases
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Date posted: Mar 31, 2009