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NCC Emphasizes Peaceful Nature Of Vieques Protests,
Presses Clinton For An Immediate End To War Exercises There

            May 2, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – The National Council of Churches has sent an urgent appeal to the Clinton Administration to back off from its threat of U.S. police action against protesters occupying areas of Vieques and to cease immediately using that Puerto Rican island for military target practice. 

            “This would not be the appropriate time or place for the use of force,” wrote NCC General Secretary Dr. Bob Edgar in a fax sent today to President Clinton.   

He emphasized that Puerto Rico’s churches – including Catholics, Protestants and Pentecostals – are in the forefront of efforts to win an end to the U.S. military occupation of Vieques, home to 8,200 people.  Churches also led the call for peaceful protest, including the peaceful demonstrations taking place now. 

Dr. Edgar emphasized the National Council of Churches’ support for “those who currently occupy the beaches on Vieques in a peaceful protest so that the island will once again become a normal society.” 

“The majority of the people of Puerto Rico and Vieques have demonstrated through various means, that they no longer wish Vieques to be a site for war exercises,” Dr. Edgar wrote the President.  “Church leaders of all denominations in Puerto Rico have also confirmed this.  Why not halt military exercises now, rather than wait for a referendum?” 

            “Several bishops and other church leaders are participating in the peaceful protest that’s going on now,” said the Rev. Oscar Bolioli, NCC/Church World Service Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, with offices in New York.   “Last night and again this morning, I received phone calls from church representatives in Vieques who emphasized the peaceful character of the protest and their hope that any police action against them will exercise similar behavior.  They do not intend to resist arrest. 

 “Some church leaders from the United States are present among them,” the Rev. Bolioli said, “supporting their moral demand for an end to use of their island for U.S. military target practice.” 

            Participants in the protests include: Methodist Bishop Juan Vera (cellphone 787-317-0558); Lutheran Bishop Francisco Sosa; the Rev. Wilfrido Strada, President, Bible Society of Puerto Rico; the Rev. Jasmina Apolinaris, President of the Baptist Church in Puerto Rico; Father Pedro Ortiz of the Roman Catholic Church; Rev. Luis Rosario, Executive of the United Church of Christ in Puerto Rico, and a Church of the Brethren in Puerto Rico delegation. 

            Among those joining them from the United States are United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries executive the Rev. German Acevedo (cellphone 787-502-7257), members of the Christian Peace Making Team, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO/Pastors for Peace) and Maria Ortiz of the NCC/Church World Service staff. 

            Other contacts on this story include the Rev. Eriberto Martinez, Executive Secretary, Evangelical Council of Puerto Rico (phone 787-765-6030); Dr. Edgar (c/o NCC Communication Department, 212-870-2227), the Rev. Bolioli (212-870-2460) and Franklin Guerrero of the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries (212-870-3588). 


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