Council of Churches of Cuba
Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico
U.S. Religious Leaders Delegation
Rev. John L. McCullough, President and CEO, Church World Service
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Rabbi Elhanan ‘Sunny’ Schnitzer, President, Cuba America Jewish Mission
PEOPLE OF FAITH throughout the United States and Cuba celebrate the dawn of a new relationship between the United States and Cuba announced simultaneously by President Barack Obama and President Raul Castro.
This major break-through was facilitated by the humanitarian release by Cuba of USAID contractor Alan Gross, and the release by the U.S. of the remaining members of the Cuban 5: Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero-Rodríguez, in exchange for an unnamed U.S. agent imprisoned in Cuba. In November we issued a joint statement calling for the release of Mr. Gross and the remaining Cuban 5 prisoners, and are gratified that these men are now free and restored to their families. We are pleased to have contributed our efforts toward this happy conclusion.
The changes envisioned include policies that faith leaders have long sought: high-level, wide-ranging discussions between senior officials, re-establishing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba, lifting U.S. restrictions on 12 categories of “people-to-people” travel to Cuba, raising the ceiling on remittances to Cuba from the U.S., initiating a process that should result in removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and taking new financial and commercial initiatives.
We are pleased that President Obama and President Castro agree with and have acted on our conviction that there is no better time than now to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States. Our world has changed dramatically since the U.S. embargo/blockade on Cuba began in 1962. There is no longer any reason to deny both our peoples the blessings of mutual exchange and expanded relationships in all aspects of life.
Thank you President Obama and President Castro for your bold and decisive actions! Please know that you are in our prayers as you move forward in this vital journey to a new and hope filled relationship for the sake of both our peoples and future generations. Your actions mark the exciting beginning of a new era for our countries.
Finally, in this spirit of Advent and Christmas, which means solidarity of God with the human being, and the Jewish Festival of Hanukkah with its message of faith and courage, we commit to work to make real these words from the psalmist, when he said:
“Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven” (Psalm 85:10-12).