December 9, 2020

Dear CRLN members and friends,

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-3

The end of another year approaches, and what a year it has been.  Many public voices have expressed the view that 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult years in recent human history, certainly in the memory of the majority of us alive today.  We have indeed been through the waters and the fire this past year. 

In my opening comments at our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2019, I expressed my view that at the heart of our work and mission was bringing hope amidst a world of suffering and death, oppression and denial of human rights, maintaining light in the darkness.  Perhaps for most of us, that light was never as necessary as it was this past year, as we struggled to maintain that hope in the face of a global pandemic and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism globally and right here at home. 

Those challenges even affected our Annual Gathering this year, as we had to meet through the medium of our computer screens rather than face to face.  But the fact that we refused to let these obstacles prevent us from gathering and celebrating our important work and the significant accomplishments of the last year demonstrates that the light and hope remains bright, unextinguished, even in these most difficult of times.

We refused to let the pandemic or right-wing authoritarian governments here and abroad stop us from pushing forward with our mission, as you can read in the enclosed insert that lists CRLN’s major activities in 2020. Both our sanctuary efforts and our solidarity with communities in Latin America, especially Cuba, grew and expanded this past year.  Our legislative activity was likewise robust, with several significant developments.  And we took several public actions, including helping to shut down the infamous plans to open an “ICE Citizens’ Academy” in Chicago. See details in:

So much of what we have been through this past year and the things we have accomplished were captured in the words of our guest speaker at this year’s Annual Gathering, Sister María Magdalena Silva Rentería. The founder and Director of CAFEMIN, a shelter for immigrants located in Mexico City, she joined our event from Mexico.  We turned the challenge of COVID, which limited our face-to-face interactions, into the advantage of a virtual gathering, making it easier to have our friends from abroad join us.  Sr. María Magdalena shared with us her stories of providing shelter and support for immigrants, as well as her analysis of the issues underlying the crisis of migration and action suggestions for how we can respond in this critical moment.  Her experiences were very relevant to our sanctuary efforts, our work with migrants’ rights and our solidarity work with communities in Central America and beyond. If you missed our Annual Gathering, you can watch it on YouTube in English at https://bit.ly/2020CRLNEnglish or in Spanish at https://bit.ly/CRLN2020Spanish

The year ended, as we all know, on a hopeful note.  The most authoritarian, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee president in our lifetime was defeated.  But regardless of the outcome of the presidential or Senate races, the election revealed something we cannot ignore. We must face the fact that there is a deep moral crisis we must address in our nation, when many of our fellow citizens are OK with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, calls to violence, attacks on democracy and flirtations with authoritarianism.  I do not mean this to be a condemnation. I must continue to hope that most human beings have the capacity for love and compassion and, when presented with the impact of their choices on their fellow human beings, will act humanely. But whether out of fear, greed, selfishness, or ignorance born out of the misinformation promoted by powerful interests that profit from the ignorance of the many, far too many of our neighbors have embraced a system of beliefs that is contrary to our values and the values of our faith traditions.

This moral crisis in our nation makes our work more important than ever.  It is left to us to build links of solidarity at home and abroad.  It is up to us to promote the values of peace and justice.  It is up to us to continue to lift up the voices of the oppressed and those struggling for liberation. This is our mission, our moral and material revolution, compassion in action, the only way to overcome the waters and fire that surround us.  Thank you for being a part of this work.  I am filled with great anticipation for working with all of you to build a new world in the coming year.

This work cannot be sustained without your help.  CRLN receives no corporate and/or government   funding.  We rely completely on our organizational, congregational and individual friends and members, along with some small grants from a few foundations.  We call on you to demonstrate your support by making a holiday contribution, an end of the year commitment to struggle for justice, peace, and human rights. With your support and solidarity, we will continue to walk through the fire and remain unburnt, as we enter what I believe will be a time of new beginnings and renewed hope.    

Sincerely,

Claudia Lucero

Executive Director

P.S. Please make your checks payable to CRLN. You may also make an online donation at www.crln.org/donate. Your contributions are tax-deductible. In addition, please consider remembering CRLN in your will. Our legal title is: Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America.

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This year we chose the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, our partner in Cuba as one of the 2020 CRLN Honorees.  Their work to build bridges and connect communities internationally has inspired us for more than twenty years.  Despite the many barriers caused by U.S. policy, the Center has worked to welcome delegations from around the world to Cuba to learn from Cubans and to share in international visions for liberation. 

The Center is a macroecumenical association of Christian inspiration. It supports the Cuban people and their Churches in solidarity and prophetically through sociotheological reflection and training, popular education, communication, comprehensive service to the community and the promotion of international solidarity.

Part of their work on international solidarity is welcoming delegations from around the world and creating opportunities for delegates to hear directly from the Cuban people about their reality. 

They have welcomed many delegations from CRLN, Witness for Peace and other organizations. Most recently CRLN’s summer intern, Daisy Hernandez, participated in a delegation at the Center and created a three part webinar series available on our website.   The experiences delegates have on these visits strengthens their ability to advocate for an end to harmful U.S. policies toward Cuba.   

The Center was founded on April 25, 1987 as an initiative of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Marianao (IBEM) and the work of Pastors Raúl Suárez Ramos and Clara Rodés, as well as other close collaborators.

Today the Center has a leadership team made up of Executive Director Joel Suárez, Reverend Izett Samá, Kirenia Criado Pérez and Marilín Peña and it continues to live out its values of:

  • an emancipatory ethic of Christian inspiration;
  • the conscious, rebellious and prophetic commitment to the Cuban people, the Revolution and socialism;
  • the defense of a full life for all human beings as a centrality, without exclusions or discrimination, linked to respect for the rights of nature.
  • generational diversity, gender, skin color, origin, sexual options, occupations, knowledge and beliefs, with an ecumenical sense of social justice.

While the pandemic has made delegations to the Center impossible, it continues to work in its many other areas and is connecting virtually through webinars such as the recent webinar organized by Cuban and US religious organizations. 

We are inspired by all the work of the Center and want to deeply thank them for welcoming us into their communities. 

To learn more about the work of the Center please visit their website at: https://cmlk.org/

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Joint Statement of the

National Council of the Churches of Christ in USA and the 

Council of Churches of Cuba

La Habana, Cuba – Washington, DC, USA — March 26, 2020

On either side of the river is the tree of life
with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit  each month;
and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.                     

 –Revelation 22:2 NRSV

We are only days away from Easter 2020, the most important celebration of Christianity, and the world is going through a crisis of inestimable implications that affects all edges of life on the planet.

The Council of Churches of Cuba and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA have worked closely together for many years for the right to life, health, and welfare of all the inhabitants of this world. It is the love of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, that unites us and demands that we raise our prayer to our God for the countries and the families that suffer today because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This suffering intensifies and worsens due to inequalities and injustices; the enormous gaps between the rich and the poor; differences among regions; lack of inclusion; gender injustice and migratory and climate justice problems.

  • We solicit the government of the United States for the immediate lifting of the economic, financial and commercial blockade imposed on Cuba for over 60 years as well as that imposed on other nations.
  • We request the cessation of all manipulation and use of political and economic interests in the face of the current global health crisis, worsened and visualized by the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • We request the international ecumenical movement; all churches and faiths in the United States and in the world; governments; the United Nations and all people of goodwill to come together in a global effort to petition for the immediate lifting of the blockade and the cessation of all sanctions on any country or region. Especially now, these genocidal policies hold back and limit the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • We salute and congratulate the Pastoral Letter of the World Council of Churches on March 18; the Joint Statement of the ACT Alliance and Religions for Peace on March 26; especially the Call of Church World Service on March 24 in relation to the blockade and the sanctions. Other initiatives and efforts are coming into being as a global campaign in favor of collaboration, unity, and peace in the search for appropriate responses and solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and world crisis.

We are grateful for the thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals who are selflessly providing lifesaving assistance throughout the world.  Therefore, it is imperative the blockade and coercive sanctions are lifted so they would be able to save lives during the pandemic.

We know that goodwill between Cubans and Americans will help the entire world in this moment.  We pray our call will be heard.

Jim Winkler
General Secretary and President
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Rev. Antonio Santana Hernandez
President
Council of Churches in Cuba

Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico
Executive Secretary
Council of Churches in Cuba

Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer
Governing Board Chair
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

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The Impact of Economic Sanctions Against Cuba Amid COVID-19

Cuba has been under U.S. economic sanctions for over sixty years, costing the island nation billions of dollars. In the last year, the Trump Administration has dramatically increased economic sanctions against Cuba, leaving them strapped for cash. As the confirmed cases of COVID-19 increase daily within the country, the economic toll resulting from these sanctions has led to a shortage of medicine and medical supplies needed to combat the virus. Despite Cuba’s strong healthcare system, their lack of access to the appropriate medical supplies is hindering their ability to treat and contain COVID-19. The international community must make every effort within its power to stop the spread of the virus, protect people particularly the most vulnerable and ease the harm the virus causes. In order to do that, the United State must suspend the sanctions that are inflicting the most harm on the Cuban people.

The Impact of Economic Sanctions Against Venezuela Amid COVID-19

U.S. economic sanctions in Venezuela had led to a public health crisis prior to the rise of COVID-19. These sanctions negatively impacted Venezuela’s economy and have prohibited the importation of essential, lifesaving products, including medicine and medical equipment. Economic sanctions imposed by the United States have already caused increased disease and tens of thousands of excess deaths, according to a 2019 study. Hospitals throughout the country are suffering from a lack of masks, gloves, and other protective gear essential for the proper treatment of COVID-19 patients and for containing the virus. Additionally, many hospitals lack clean water and soap, further indicating that an outbreak of COVID-19 in Venezuela would likely spread rapidly.

The Fight Against COVID-19 Must Be Global

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently called for sectoral sanctions to be reduced or suspended. During this crisis, the world must come together to effectively fight it. Any hindering of the medical efforts in one country increases the risk for the entire globe.

Contact the administration and your members of Congress today! Urge them to make every effort to stop the COVID19 by easing the sanctions on Cuba and Venezuela and helping the most vulnerable get the medical care and equipment they need.

Click the link below to log in and send your message:
https://www.votervoice.net/PCUSA/Campaigns/73235/Respond

 

 

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