Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) Communiqué on the Current Situation in Cuba

July 12, 2021

Dear sisters and brothers from SET partner Churches and Institutions,

We greet you in the name of our common Lord Jesus Christ and at the same time we thank you for your prayers and your expressions of concern related to the current situation in our country.

We are living an acute economic crisis and a crisis of values since the “special period” (decade of the 1990s) when the Soviet Union and socialist bloc collapsed; we have not yet recovered from those times. The crisis has become worse due to several factors.

On one hand, the aggressive policy of the governments of the United States against Cuba, particularly during the Donald Trump administration, which imposed 242 measures, most of them during the Covid-19 pandemic, against our people to try to smother us. On the past session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on June 23, 184 nations voted in favor of the Republic of Cuba against the blockade, with two votes against and three abstentions.

On the other hand, the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought negative consequences: the sad death of loved ones, which produces a great emotional impact on the people. Furthermore, the State loses millions of dollars above all due to the fall of tourism; despite that, it invests millions of dollars to try to heal and save the people. A significant example of that is the development of scientific research and the production of five vaccine candidates against Covid-19 (Soberana 01, 02, Plus; Abdala and Mambisa). Recently, Cuba authorized its Abdala vaccine in the midst of the worst outbreak of the pandemic. The project showed over 92 percent electivity in the application of three doses in the last stage of clinical trials, thus becoming the first Latin American vaccine. However, we are suffering a collapse of health institutions, particularly here in the province of Matanzas, the present epicenter of the pandemic, with dire scarcity of medicines.

Finally, the crisis has intensified because of the economic measures taken by the State at the beginning of this year. Even though salaries have increased and the government has reiterated the promise that no one will be defenseless, the truth is that the population has to pay five times more for food and electricity, water, gas, telephone and other services.

In the last few days, particularly the past Sunday, July 11, there have been disturbances, protests and vandalism, mainly caused by many of the accumulated dissatisfactions along these years that have worsened in the last few months. Moreover, these dissatisfactions have been fueled and promoted from outside the country – in a very opportunistic way – as well as from within through the social media. Even though disturbances like those from last Sunday have stopped in the country, there is an uneasy calm.

As churches, we are interceding for our people, giving comfort, care, producing and sharing sense, offering messages of faith – strength and hope, as well as dialogue, reconciliation and peace with justice. In addition, we are offering solidarity and witness, making diaconal work or service – through the Living Waters project, helping and serving food for the vulnerable, and through laundry for the elderly people.

In the case of SET, last month the only Pediatric Hospital of the province of Matanzas exceeded its maximum capacity. The Ministry of Public Health of the province requested the help of the Seminary, to serve as an annex center of the Children’s Hospital to accommodate children who were considered suspicious of having contracted Covid-19 with their companions. We immediately agreed, following the long traditions of our institution of service to the civil society.

On June 20, we held a joint meeting, and both institutions worked intensely from that moment on to create the necessary conditions in the visitors’ building, ensuring the protection of the members of our community and the properties. We were able to fit out 120 capacities; some for those children positive to the disease and one accompanying parent; some for those who were suspicious of having it plus one accompanying parent. Besides, adults who are positive or suspicious of being positive to Covid-19 are also assisted here. We also host teams of 10 people, doctors and nurses for hospital aid. All capacities have been occupied since June 21, discharging those who recovered from the disease and transferring those who needed it to the Intensive Care Unit.

At present, 10 SET workers are working in the different areas. The kitchen team prepares food for 140 people every day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks. Even when the Ministry of Public Health is supplying with all the logistics, including foodstuff, SET offers the infrastructures, covering its expenses.

As to our teaching objectives, the Matanzas campus is closed at present and our Higher Ecumenical Institute of Sciences of Religions (ISECRE) continues working in virtual mode in the midst of “vacations”. We are getting ready to begin the new course 2021-2022 on August 30 and we are learning to conduct the process of teaching-learning in virtual mode and distance courses. To do this we have received help from partner institutions abroad that have graciously shared their vast experiences with us. We understand the great challenges we have ahead of us, i.e., the formation of renewed pastorate and leadership in the churches and other religious institutions serving in Cuba for the new times, for this Kairos of our nation, in a post-Covid period that will not be the same; and the proactive participation in the new society we are trying to build.

We greatly appreciate your consistent solidarity accompaniment through your prayers and through public advocacy to lift the blockade which damages directly our bilateral mission relationships. The blockade hinders the possibility to send financial resources to our Seminary, including other countries because of its extraterritorial nature. We request an international campaign to oppose a military intervention against our country incited by politicians in that country, especially those of Cuban origin. We will be grateful for any donations of medicines and food, for which we will send indications in the next few days.

Gratefully,

Your brother in mission,

Carlos E. Ham S.

SET Principal

Seminario Evangélico de Teología

Dos de Mayo Final, Apartado 1439, Matanzas, Cuba

Página web: www.setcuba.org


		
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Latin America Program Coordinator Job Announcement

The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) seeks a Latin America Program Coordinator. CRLN has a staff of four that coordinate an interfaith education, action, and advocacy network. For over 30 years, CRLN has worked to open spaces for the voices of those in the Americas affected by U.S. policies and has worked in solidarity with movements for social justice and human rights. Through educational events, delegations, speaker tours, and regular issue updates, CRLN educates and mobilizes to empower people to advocate for positive changes in U.S. policy in the Americas with elected city, state and federal officials.

View and download the job description here:

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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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