Pastoral Letter sign now

--- [Versiуn en espaсol sigue despuйs de esta versiуn en inglйs] ---

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.

--- [version in Spanish follows. To sign please scroll down] ---

Somos un grupo inclusivo interreligioso e interdenominacional de lнderes religios@s quienes nos hemos unido para impulsar este urgente llamado pastoral solicitando su apoyo a la misiуn de Pastores por la Paz. Estamos profundamente preocupad@s de como computadoras que estaban destinadas para niс@s escolares y adultos con necesidades especiales han sido confiscadas por oficiales del Departamento de Comercio y estбn bajo su detenciуn.

Por mas de una dйcada, Pastores por la Paz, ha estado organizando una caravana anual de ayuda humanitaria hacia Cuba. Pastores por la Paz opera dentro de los mandatos de las grandes tradiciones de nuestra fe, las cuales en sus escrituras nos dicen:

Abre la boca y juzga a los pobres y afligidos con verdadera justicia. (Proverbios 31:9)
Serб que Alб nos darб amor y amistad entre ustedes y aquellos que ustedes consideran sus enemigos. Porque Alб tiene poder sobre todas las cosas; Alб es Perdonador y Misericordioso. (Surah 60:7)
...no amemos con puras palabras y de labios para afuera, sino de verdad y con hechos. (1 Juan, 3:18)

De acuerdo al mandato del Evangelio de Mateo 25:35, somos llamad@s a llevar un vaso de agua a nuestr@s vecin@s que tienen sed. Pastores por la Paz colecta ayuda humanitaria de Iglesias, hospitales, escuelas, organizaciones e individuos en todo Estados Unidos. Pastores por la Paz ha transportado mбs de 2,500 toneladas de ayuda humanitaria hacia Cuba y las mismas han sido distribuidas por el Comitй Ecumйnico de Distribuciуn, un comitй compuesto por representantes de Iglesias en Cuba.

En el libro de Los Hechos, San Pablo tuvo una visiуn en la cual la gente de la ciudad de Macedonia por medio de su llanto le decнan, Ven a Macedonia y ayъdanos (Hechos 16:9). Pablo responde a esa visiуn y logra entrar en contacto para poder ofrecer su ayuda en esa tierra distante. El llamado de Macedonia de las Iglesias de Cuba han movido a Pastores por la Paz para organizar diez y seis caravanas de ayuda humanitaria y buena voluntad hacia Cuba. Est@s Caravanas de Pastores por la Paz estбn en acuerdo con la misiуn de nuestras comunidades de fe de servir a nuestr@s herman@s de Cuba; las mismas tienen la intenciуn de ser un acto de fraternidad, un gesto de buena voluntad, y un modelo para la reconciliaciуn.

Por quince aсos, desde que comenzу su trabajo con Cuba, Pastores por la Paz ha rehusado, como cuestiуn de principio, el no solicitar una licencia y hacer lo que su conciencia le ordene. Como lнderes de diferentes denominaciones y comunidades de fe, respetamos tanto el trabajo de Pastores por la Paz como su interpretaciуn de las escrituras. Como ciudadan@s, tambiйn entendemos y apoyamos su punto de vista de que licenciar actividades religiosas puede establecer un precedente peligroso.

Pastores por la Paz cree y enseсa, por palabras y acciones, que Cuba no es nuestro enemigo, y es de su plena convicciуn que es nuestra responsabilidad moral el dirigir nuestras vidas y acciones por la luz de las Santas Escrituras, y cuando es necesario, el confrontar leyes injustas. Despuйs de estudiar, investigar, orar y reflexionar hemos llegado a la conclusiуn que el bloqueo contra Cuba es injusto, ilegal e inmoral.

Desafortunadamente, oficiales de la Aduana de Estados Unidos en Texas, actuando bajo las уrdenes del Departamento de Comercio de Estados Unidos, han confiscado 43 cajas de ayuda humanitaria de la 16va. Caravana de Pastores por la Paz. Las cajas contienen cables, calculadoras, tinta de impresoras, teclados, dos impresoras y una docena de computadoras usadas. Las computadoras y el equipo de computaciуn fueron donadas por comunidades de fe en Estados Unidos, y las mismas tienen la intenciуn de ser utilizadas por niс@s Cuban@s con necesidades especiales- niс@s con problemas de visiуn, problemas de aprendizaje y otros retos similares.

Pastores por la Paz cuidadosamente se ha asegurado que toda la ayuda humanitaria que fue donada vaya directamente para quienes fue destinada. Muchas de nuestras denominaciones nacionales y entidades regionales han apoyado y continъan apoyando las Caravanas de Pastores por la Paz.

Nuestro compartir teolуgico y convicciones morales, se derivan de nuestras grandes piedades del mundo, las cuales nos piden que amemos a nuestr@s vecin@s de la misma manera que nos amamos a nostr@s mism@s. Cuando le preguntaron a Jesъs; їY quien es mi vecin@? El respondiу con la parбbola del Buen Samaritano, quien atendiу con gran compasiуn de amor a alguien muy diferente a йl, a pesar de los riesgos que se estaba tomando. Hoy el pueblo Cubano es nuestro verdadero vecino. Estamos ordenad@s por las Escrituras ha tratarles como nuestr@s hermanos y hermanas, atender sus necesidades como si fueran miembros de nuestra propia familia, y compartir sus dolores y sus alegrнas.

Nosotr@s, l@s Obisp@s, Clйrig@s, Rabн, Imбn, teolog@s, y otras personas de fe abajo firmantes, respetuosamente y urgentemente requerimos que las autoridades responsables en su administraciуn ordenen la entrega inmediata de estas propiedades para que de esta manera las mismas lleguen a su destino. Estamos profundamente preocupad@s que una agencia del gobierno de Estados Unidos pueda interrumpir nuestro compromiso con el mandato de las escrituras y nuestro mandato moral de practicar la misericordia de la misma manera que el Buen Samaritano lo hizo (Lucas 10:25-37). Estamos convencidos que todo esto fue un error involuntario y que usted harб todo lo que estб en su poder para garantizar que Pastores por la Paz complete a toda su capacidad la misiуn de su viaje y pueda entregar toda la ayuda humanitaria.

Que la paz de Dios sea siempre con ustedes.

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Desiree RichardsBy:
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President Bush, Commerce Secretary Gutierrez

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