Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NCC CWS Letter to President re Religious Travel

May 4, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We uphold you, Mrs. Obama, and your family in our fervent prayers, with every good wish for the health of our nation and its leadership toward a more peaceful and just world.

As leaders of Church World Service and the National Council of Churches in the USA, we write to you on behalf of our member communions to request that you end the restrictions on religious travel to Cuba. We appreciate your expressed willingness to review and revise long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba and have
welcomed your removal of restrictions on Cuban-American travel. We urgently ask that you now change the Cuba policy of the United States in ways that will assist the churches in their work and have wider benefits for our country and for the people of Cuba.

Since 2005, U.S. church denominations, mission agencies and ecumenical organizations at the national and regional levels have suffered from severe restrictions on religious travel. Our institutions are currently eligible only for very limited licenses. Some of our institutions have been unable to secure even these limited licenses.

In 2008 we addressed an earlier letter to you wherein we stated:

These impractical restrictions have reduced our ability to send religious delegations to Cuba, limited our opportunities to accompany and support our Cuban church partners, and have the effect of severely limiting participation in Cuba missions by many U.S. churches and congregants.

Churches across the theological spectrum have called for the elimination of these restrictions which have now interrupted relationships, fellowship, and exchanges which began more than one hundred and twenty-five years ago.

Insomuch that Congressional action is not required, we ask you to lift these restrictions. This is a matter of direct institutional importance to U.S. communions and religious institutions.

Beyond this immediate step, we also ask that OFAC liberally grant visas for U.S. travel to Cuban pastors and other religious leaders; and, work closely with Congress to end the travel ban for all Americans. We are convinced that it is time to change this ineffective and counter-productive U.S. policy toward Cuba.

Thank you for your considered attention to these concerns of the churches.

Respectfully yours,

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon
General Secretary
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

c/o Martin Shupack, Church World Service, 110 Maryland Ave., Suite 404, Washington, DC 20002; 202-481-6934

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