(Photo: Reuters/Desmond Boylan)
The National Council of Churches recently held a meeting with Cuban church leaders and pledged to work for better relations between the two countries.
General Secretary Michael Kinnamon led discussions that ended with a joint statement saying, “It is the call to the churches of both countries to offer a word of hope in response to the anxiety and fear in both countries.”
The groups also agreed to work for the lifting of the 53-year-old embargo against Cuba. Leaders described the embargo as “the major obstacle to the resolution of differences, to economic interaction, and to fuller engagement of our peoples and churches.”
The economic embargo was first imposed in 1960, with full sanctions added in 1962. The Cuban Democracy Act was a response to Cuba’s nationalization of U.S. citizens and corporations.
The State Department said the Act was to help Cuba “seek a peaceful transition to democracy” and to hopefully lead a “resumption of economic growth.” The embargo is still in effect, and Americans cannot do business with Cuba.
World and religious leaders have spoken out against the embargo. Pope John Paul II, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and organizations such as the Disciples of Christ Church and the United Church of Christ have all issued statements calling for the repeal of the embargo.
Former President Jimmy Carter stated: “Our two nations have been trapped in a destructive state of belligerence for 42 years, and it is time for us to change our relationship.”
The National Council of Churches is working to enact that change. In a joint statement with Cuban leaders, the NCC said, “Together, we affirm the importance of living in hope, but also to demonstrate the credibility of our hope by acting to help make it so.”
Leaders from the NCC met with representatives in Havana, Cuba, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2. On the final day, General Secretary Michael Kinnamon spoke to the press. He said: “We come not as politicians or diplomats but as religious leaders.”
“Our first responsibility is to pray for the leaders of both countries and we will…but our churches represent 50 million Christians, so we believe we have some influence and we’ll use it.”
Kinnamon also met with Cuban leader Raul Castro. He described their meeting and said Castro “insisted that everything is on the table. All the Cubans require is that talks be held in an atmosphere of mutual respect.”