Letter: proposed by IFCO/Pastors for Peace. We invite you to sign on to this letter.

President Obama: As people of faith, we ask you to hear OUR concerns for Cuba!

Religious leaders in Cuba have asked you to normalize relations between our country and Cuba. We, their US-based sisters and brothers share their hope for a more fruitful, open relationship between the people of our two countries. Now is the time for the United States to take concrete action. We ask you to listen to us, representatives of the faith community – rather than a handful of those who ask you to continue the enmity and arrogance that has marked our relations for the past 60 years. Cuba is our neighbor, and we are called to Love Our Neighbor.

This tenet is at the core of all faith traditions. A Buddhist text says “hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” For Christians, it is illustrated by the story of the Good Samaritan. We are asked to emulate the Samaritan, who broke the Trading-with-the-Enemy Law of the day. We must bind wounds (and take roofing materials to Santiago, Cuba as IFCO is doing). We also must heed the words of Dr. King as we work to “transform the whole Jericho road, so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.” We ask you to end the US blockade, whose goal is to inflict pain and suffering on the Cuban people.

We ask you to end the blockade, whose goal is to inflict pain and suffering on the Cuban people. Respect the right of self-determination for all countries. End not only travel restrictions, but also ALL existing sanctions on trade and diplomatic relations, restrictions which are illegal by international law. As people of faith, we support Cuba's right to conduct normal trade, and feed its people, without US harassment designed to cause suffering among the people of Cuba.

Take these steps leading to normalized relations:
  1. End the restrictions on travel to Cuba: not just for Cuban-Americans, but for everyone. Ending travel sanctions will help end the information blockade that exists between the US and Cuba. Last year, the Government Accountability Office reported that the US government's harassment of Cuba travelers was wasting taxpayers' money and actually hurting our nation's homeland security.
  2. Free the Cuban Five, who have been imprisoned since 2001 – simply for seeking to protect Cuban civilians from Miami-based terrorist attacks.
  3. Take Cuba off the terrorist list. The State Department includes Cuba on its list of nation- states that sponsor terrorism, for no valid reason.
  4. Cut USAID budget for 'assistance to a free Cuba”. This money, more than $50 million per year, simply adds to the corruption in Miami. TV Marti, which continued broadcasting during the government shutdown, has even been deemed 'a failure' by a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report.
  5. Close the prison in Guantanamo, and give the territory back to Cuba.

US government restrictions on trade have cost Cuba $93 billion to date (using 2007 dollar figures). Food, medical supplies, hospital equipment, and basic services could have been purchased with these funds. Start with allowing Cuba to easily purchase construction supplies for rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

For the 22nd time, this year in the United Nations, 188 countries voted for ending the US blockade of Cuba. It's time to change this embarrassing isolation of the US from the world community. Please stop putting the US people on the losing side of a 188-2 vote.

Because Cuba is listed among the terrorist states, the sanctions and fines levied upon banks have put the US in the embarrassing position of having Cuba's diplomatic representatives without a US bank that will fulfill legal and normal banking functions. It is time to put the US on the right side of international law.

Please end these attempts to determine Cuba's government and respect the sovereignty of our neighboring country.

Thank you:

To Sign on: Please send us your name, organization (please let us know if it is 'official' or for identification purposes only), contact information (address, city, state, zip), email and phone.


Organizing suggestions for our network and Friends:

Last May, religious leaders in Cuba sent a letter to President Obama, asking for normalization of relations between our two countries. Recently a similar letter, signed by 21 religious leaders, heads of denominations and religious orders, was also sent to President Obama. Another similar letter has been signed by 55 groups, both national and regional.

We are now asking you to follow these with IFCO's own letter, and add your signature and that of the religious leaders in your own community.

  1. Visit the faith leaders in your community.
  2. Ask them to sign on to this letter. (it's a great opportunity to talk about your work with Cuba, and deepen your connections for your future work.)
  3. Send us their name and contact information. If they agree, we will post it on our website. (institution names are important, but they can be for identification purposes only.)
  4. Ask to have a 'minute-for-mission' so that members of the congregation can sign on. We'll have a bulletin insert available for you to use. We'll make available easy reference to the statements from the faith based groups, denominations and religious orders about normalizing relations with Cuba.

This is an opportunity for the faith community to speak out. President Obama needs to know that a handful of right-wing Cuban-Americans do not speak for the people of the US, or even the Cuban-American community. A deliberate policy of creating suffering is a moral issue, and the faith community has the power and responsibility to speak.


Some background information, November, 2013

1. letter sent by religious leaders in Cuba
2. letter sent by 21 religious leaders in the US
3. Letter sent by Cuban religious leaders

Letter from 21 US Religious Leaders:

October 21, 2013
President Barack ObamaThe White House1600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
This May, Cuban religious leaders, in a letter to U.S.-based churches, expressed their hope for a swiftly implemented normalization of the relationship between the United States and Cuba. We, their U.S.-based colleagues, share their hope for a more fruitful, open relationship between Americans and our Cuban brothers and sisters. We believe now is the time for the United States to take concrete action to pursue a path toward improved relations with Cuba.
We are deeply grateful to you for issuing an executive directive in 2011 to lift restrictions for religious and academic travel to Cuba, and to allow licensed people-to-people cultural travel. Since then, we have strengthened our relationships with our church partners in Cuba. We have accompanied and supported them during this time of robust growth for Cuban churches, which has occurred alongside movement within Cuba to increase economic prosperity and political rights. We believe that an improved, more cooperative relationship between our nation and Cuba would benefit Cuban churches and help facilitate progress toward full political freedom and economic opportunity for the Cuban people.
For these reasons, we urge you to take the following actions this year:

Initiate direct, high-level dialogue with the Cuban government. We encourage your Administration to engage in direct, unrestricted, meaningful dialogue with the Cuban Government between senior officials to discuss issues that concern both the United States and Cuba. We laud the recent government-to-government talks about resuming direct mail service, as well as the re-start of migration talks between our two nations. We urge you to extend such talks, and move them to a new level, to include other topics of mutual concern, creating the potential for recognizing and supporting new political and economic openings in Cuba that will benefit the Cuban people. These high-level talks could help facilitate even greater dialogue and exchange of ideas between our peoples and create possibilities for increased engagement by all sectors of our societies.

Exercise your executive authority to remove Cuba from the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism. Cuba is not a state sponsor of terrorism and must be taken off this list. Cuba’s placement on the list is widely recognized as inaccurate and dates to decades-old political dynamics that no longer exist. The most recent State Department report indicates that the Cuban government: provided no weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups, joined a regional group on anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, and has distanced itself from Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA) members living on the island. Furthermore, Cuba is sponsoring and hosting the Colombian-FARC guerrillas’ peace talks, collaborates with the United States in counter-drug efforts, and has made international commitments to combat terrorism. Cuba’s inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism undermines opportunities for the United States to use its influence to encourage continuing improvements in political freedom and human rights.

Exercise your executive authority to lift all restrictions on people-to-people travel between the United States and Cuba. Purposeful travel between the United States and Cuba creates and strengthens fruitful relationships between Americans and Cubans. Since your 2011 executive directive that eased restrictions on religious travel, our communities have a great deal of experience traveling under general license to Cuba for permitted purposes. At both the church-wide and local levels, our members can provide firsthand witness to the degree to which such relationship-building serves the common good of both nations and strengthens our common witness for peace, dignity and human rights. We have neither experienced nor observed any adverse consequences from this period of expanded relationship, and we strongly urge that the same opportunity be available to all residents of the United States.

We pray for the full normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba. We believe these three incremental steps will serve that end, while mutually benefitting our two peoples. Our church partners in Cuba are eager for meaningful ways to build relationships. We urge you to seize this moment of opportunity to improve relations between the United States and Cuba.

With blessings and peace,Rev. A. Roy Medley, General SecretaryAmerican Baptist Churches USA
Shan Cretin, General SecretaryAmerican Friends Service Committee
Dr. Lester A. Myers,PresidentCenter of Concern
The Rev. Joel Boot,Executive DirectorChristian Reformed Church in North America
The Very Rev. John Edmunds ST, PresidentConference of Major Superiors of Men
Sr. Janice McLaughlin, MM, PresidentMaryknoll Sisters
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS,Executive DirectorNETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated ClerkPresbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Rev. Peter Morales, PresidentUnitarian Universalist Association
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson,Ecumenical OfficerUnited Methodist Church
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black,General Minister and PresidentUnited Church of Christ
Archbishop Vicken Aykazian,LegateArmenian Orthodox Church
The Rev. Sharon E. Watkins,General Minister and PresidentChristian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Stanley J. Noffsinger,General SecretaryChurch of the Brethren
The Rev. John L. McCullough,President and CEOChurch World Service
The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori,Presiding Bishop and PrimateThe Episcopal Church
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson,Presiding BishopEvangelical Lutheran Church in America
Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF, PresidentFranciscan Action Network
Peg Birk, Transitional General SecretaryNational Council of Churches
Sr. Patricia Chappell,Executive DirectorPax Christi USA
The Rev. Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, PresidentProgressive National Baptist Convention