I am looking forward to spending time this week with representatives from the Cuban Council of Churches, who will be in Washington D.C., Feb 26 – 27, to make the case for improving relations between the United States and Cuba, from a Cuban religious perspective.
It has been more than five decades since the U.S. government barred Americans from engaging in trade with, travel to or investments in Cuba. The island nation has changed dramatically over the past five decades and it is time for the U.S. to also rethink its policies toward Cuba.
CWS has a long tradition of Christian mission in partnership with churches in the U.S. and in Cuba. Over several decades we have responded to the ongoing humanitarian crisis created by the embargo, on behalf of our partner churches.
I am very pleased that my colleagues from the Cuba Council of Churches are visiting the United States at this time because it is a critical moment for conversations – and, ultimately, action – around normalizing relations with Cuba.
I know that president Obama favors improved relations with Cuba, though it is impossible for me to say whether or not he is fully prepared to move toward normalizing relations, which would also require congressional action. This visit is important in that it provides an opportunity for the Cuban church leaders to talk with administration, officials, congressional leaders and members of Congress about an issue that has festered for far too long.
The effect of the ongoing tension between the U.S. and Cuba is far reaching for both countries: it hurts the faith community, the business community and families separated from each other by an ocean of politics. The ability of Cuban and U.S. churches to be in fellowship and to engage in preaching, teaching, volunteer and short term mission exchanges with each other have been stifled, as has the ability of the church here to commit financial and other resources to the church in Cuba.
Cuba continues to evolve from the country it was when the sanctions were imposed and the U.S. position must evolve also. I believe that the change of attitude exhibited by this administration and the visit of the Cuban Council of Churches presents an opportunity for both the White House and Congress consider the issue again and to decide that now is the time to significantly improve relations with Cuba.
We believe in working towards justice and whenever human community is broken or is fractured that is an injustice, and we have the capacity to bring healing. So, why not right now?
Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of CWS.
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