Pastoral Letter sign now

We are an interfaith, interdenominational, inclusive group of religious leaders who have joined together to issue this urgent pastoral call for support of the mission of Pastors for Peace. We are deeply concerned that computers for schoolchildren and adults with special needs have been seized and are being held by US Department of Commerce officials.

For over a decade, Pastors for Peace has been organizing an annual caravan of humanitarian aid to Cuba. Pastors for Peace operates under the mandates of the great faith traditions, as it is written:

Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:9)
It may be that Allah will grant love and friendship between you and those whom you now hold as enemies. For Allah has power over all things; and Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surah 60:7)
...let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. (1 John, 3:18)

In accordance with the mandate of Matthew 25:35, we are called to take a cup of cold water to our neighbors in need. Pastors for Peace collects humanitarian aid from churches, hospitals, schools, organizations, and individuals across the US. More than 2,500 tons of aid have been delivered to Cuba by Pastors for Peace and distributed by the Ecumenical Distribution Committee, a committee of church representatives in Cuba.

In the book of Acts, St. Paul has a vision that the people in the city of Macedonia cry out, "Come over here and help us." (Acts 16:9) Paul responds to that vision and reaches out to help the people of that distant land. The "Macedonian call" of the churches in Cuba has driven the Pastors for Peace to organize sixteen caravans of humanitarian aid and good will to our neighbors in Cuba. These Pastors for Peace caravans are in keeping with the mission of our communities of faith to serve our sisters and brothers in Cuba; they are intended as an act of fellowship, a gesture of good will, and a model for reconciliation.

For thirteen years, since it began its work with Cuba, Pastors for Peace has refused, as a matter of principle, to request a license to do what its conscience commands. As leaders in various denominations and faiths, we respect both the work of Pastors for Peace and its interpretation of scripture. As citizens, we also understand and support its view that licensing of religious activities can set a very dangerous precedent.

Pastors for Peace believes and teaches, by word and by deed, that Cuba is not our enemy, and is of the firm conviction that it is our moral duty to guide our lives and actions by the light of Holy Scripture, and, when need be, confront unjust laws. After much study, investigation, prayer and reflection we have come to the conclusion that the blockade against Cuba is unjust, illegal, and immoral.

Unfortunately, U.S. Customs officers in Texas, acting under the instructions of the U.S. Department of Commerce, have seized 43 boxes of humanitarian aid from the 16th Pastors for Peace caravan. The boxes contain toner, cables, calculators, modems, keyboards, two printers, and a dozen second-hand computers. The computers and computer equipment were donated by faith communities in the U.S., and are intended for Cuban children with special needs -- children with visual impairments, learning disabilities, and similar challenges.

Pastors for Peace has taken great care to ensure that all the humanitarian aid it donates goes directly to those for whom it is intended. Many of our national and regional denominational entities have supported and continue to support the Pastors for Peace Caravans.

Our shared theological and moral convictions, derived from the great faiths of the world, call upon us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When Jesus was asked; and who is my neighbor? He responded with the parable of the Good Samaritan, who ministered with loving compassion to one very different from himself, even at great personal risk. Today the Cuban people are truly our neighbors. We are commanded by Scripture to treat them as our brothers and sisters, to attend to their needs as though they were members of our own family, and to share their pain and their joy.

We, the undersigned bishops, clergy, rabbis, imams, theologians, and other people of faith, respectfully and urgently request that the responsible authorities in your administration order the immediate release of this property in order that all the intended aid reach its destination. We are deeply concerned that any U.S. governmental agency would disrupt our response to our scriptural and moral mandates to practice mercy as the Good Samaritan did (Luke 10:25-37). We rest assured that this has been an honest mistake and that you will do all in your power to ensure that the Pastors for Peace fully complete their mission journey and are able to deliver their entire shipment of humanitarian aid.

May the peace of God be always with you.

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Ricardo TorresBy:
Petition target:
President Bush, Commerce Secretary Gutierrez


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