Religious Leaders Letter to Congress Denouncing New Cuba Travel Restrictions

The following letter was a joint effort by U.S. church and faith leaders. It denounces the Trump Administration’s unwarranted travel advisory against Cuba and the suspension of issuing visas for Cubans to travel to the United States.

 

April 12, 2018

 

Dear member of Congress:

 

As faith leaders in the United States we write to you today with great concern about recent U.S. decisions regarding our Embassy in Havana, the suspension of visas and the State Department travel advisory. Our faith partners in Cuba tell us that these changes are causing serious hardships for many ordinary Cubans. We request that you urge the Administration to reverse these decisions.

 

As a consequence of mysterious and unexplained health issues reported by some U.S. personnel serving at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, the U.S. Department of State ordered the departure of all nonessential U.S. diplomats from the embassy in Havana, Cuba. This has resulted in a suspension of virtually all consular services at the embassy. Cuban citizens wanting to visit family in the United States for emergencies, or connect with church partners, or attend faith-based meetings or assemblies, are unable to do so.

 

The suspension of visa processing within Cuba requires any Cuban citizen wishing to apply for a visa to do so at a U.S. Embassy outside of Cuba. The increasing costs and complications of the application process—which requires rescheduling interviews, obtaining visas for third countries, international travel, and paying to stay there for at least two weeks—have caused much anguish among our Cubans partners on the island and their families abroad.

 

Beyond the ordered departure, the State Department has also issued a travel advisory for U.S. citizen travel to Cuba, even though Cuba is internationally well-known as a safe destination, and trips for religious, educational and family visits are permitted under Trump Administration policies. The travel advisory and amended regulations however, make travel more difficult, resulting in a significant reduction of U.S. travelers to Cuba.

 

This has had a direct and negative impact on Cuban citizens, including those in the faith community. Many Cubans, taking advantage of new economic possibilities in Cuba, have opened privately-owned bed-and-breakfasts and restaurants, as well as other small businesses. With the downturn in U.S. travel, these private businesses have suffered a severe loss of customers and of income. Many of them have been forced to close.

 

Further, converting Cuba to an unaccompanied diplomatic post inaccurately and inappropriately ranks Cuba along with other unaccompanied posts, which include Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan. This exacerbates the hardships experienced by our Cuban sisters and brothers in our partner churches on the island.

 

Religious freedom and religious life have grown dramatically in Cuba in the last two decades, and religious attendance – among Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities – has grown as well. The faith community is playing a greater role in the life of the Cuban people, and we look forward to its continuing growth and expansion. Policies that undermine normalized relations only serve hamper these steps forward. We strongly urge you to press the administration for the re-staffing of the embassy in Havana, the reinstitution of consular services at the embassy, and the removal of the travel advisory for U.S. citizen to travel to the island.

 

Sincerely,

Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey

Minister for Partnership Relations

Alliance of Baptists

 

Archbishop Vicken

Aykazian Legate

Armenian Orthodox Church

 
Rev. Teresa Hord Owens

General Minister and President

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

 
Rev. John L. McCullough

President and CEO

Church World Service

 

 

Patrick Carolan

Executive Director

Franciscan Action Network

 
Diane Randall

Executive Secretary

Friends Committee on National Legislation

 
Colin Saxton

General Secretary

Friends United Meeting

 
J Ron Byler

Executive Director

Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

 
Jim Winkler

General Secretary/President

National Council of Churches in the USA

 
Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly

Presbyterian Church (USA)

 
Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie

General Secretary

Progressive National Baptist Convention

 
Lawrence Couch

Director

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

 
Rev. John C. Dorhauer

General Minister and President

United Church of Christ

 
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe

General Secretary

General Board of Church and Society The United Methodist Church

 

 

previous letters:

 

http://christianchurchestogether.org/religious-leaders-letter-on-cuba-to-president-obama/

End U.S. embargo on Cuba, faith leaders tell Congress

https://disciples.org/ecumenical/faith-leaders-send-letter-to-president-re-cuba/

https://www.engagecuba.org/press-releases/2017/7/12/cuban-jewish-leaders-call-for-stronger-us-cuba-ties

http://www.lawg.org/our-publications/voices-from-latin-americavoces-de-amca-latina/77-end-the-embargo-on-cuba/160-116-groups-sign-letter-to-congress-on-travel-to-cuba

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