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NCC General Secretary To Lead Vieques Solidarity Delegation June 1-3

            May 31, 2000, NEW YORK CITY – Protestors have been removed from Vieques, but efforts continue to end U.S. military use of that Puerto Rican island for target practice.  A National Council of Churches delegation will visit Puerto Rico, including Vieques, June 1-3 to send that message and to meet with Puerto Rican church and community leaders to plan next steps.

            “Over the next six months, the Congress of the United States has to deal with the issue of providing funds for the island’s clean up and the opportunity for a referendum in Puerto Rico on determining the future use of this island,” said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary, who will lead the six-member delegation. 

            “Many religious leaders, including the NCC leadership, are concerned that this island has been abused by our military for many years,” he said.   “We honor the demonstrators who risked their lives over the past year to express a concern all of us have about the Navy’s use of Vieques as a bombing range. 

            “In this day of technological advances,” Dr. Edgar said, “we think the Navy can find other ways to practice and does not need to use this island for that purpose.  I go with an open mind and open ears to listen to the concerns of the local community and the local religious leadership and I go with a concern about how our government, the U.S. government will handle this over the next several months.” 

One hoped-for outcome of the delegation’s visit is “a strategy to move towards a quick resolution of this issue, including a quick referendum so the wishes of the people can be known, then swift action,” Dr. Edgar said. 

            In addition to Dr. Edgar, of New York, delegation members are: The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, Director of Peace and Justice Ministries of The Episcopal Church, New York, and a member of the NCC/Church World Service and Witness Unit Committee; the Rev. Dr. Nozomi Ikuta, Minister for Liberation Ministries, United Church Board for Homeland Ministries, Cleveland; the Rev. Dr. Leslie F. Weber, Jr., Associate Executive Director, Division for Church in Society, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Chicago; Ms. Rebecca Cruz, former chair of the NCC Inclusiveness and Justice Standing Committee, of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Chicago, and the Rev. Oscar Bolioli, NCC/CWSW Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, New York.  The delegation’s itinerary and media contacts follow. 

Itinerary: NCC Delegation to Puerto Rico - In Solidarity with Vieques
June 1 - 3, 2000
 

June 1 

12:30pm - Departure from Lobby of Hotel Condado Plaza to Restaurant Valencia, Ave. Munoz Rivera 1000, Hato Rey (tel: 764-3790) 

1:00pm - Lunch Meeting with leaders of the Evangelical Council of Churches, Restaurant Valencia, Hato Rey 

3:00pm - Press Conference (Restaurant Valencia, Hato Rey) 

7:30pm - Dinner Meeting with representatives of civil society and Church World Service (Sao Paulo Process) partners in Puerto Rico -- Restaurant Tony Roma, Condado Plaza (Laguna Wing) (tel: 722-0322) 

June 2 

7:15am - Departure to Isla Grande Airport 

8.30am - Departure of flight to Vieques 

10:00am - Meeting at Conde de Mirasol Fort with representatives of Vieques groups seeking peace and justice in Vieques 

1:00pm - Trip to several strategic places 

4:00pm - Flight to San Juan 

4.30 pm - Arrival to Isla Grande Airport 

7.30 pm - Working Dinner with Puerto Rico Church leaders on future strategies 

June 3 Morning - Departure from San Juan 

Media Contacts 

In San Juan: Wanda Colon (Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace), (H) 787-754-7343; (O) 787-722-1640 and 787-722-2680 (Fax) 787-724-5789
The Rev. Felix and Maria Esther Ortiz of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), CWS Technical Representatives for Latin America and the Caribbean, (H) 787-274-0469; (O Phone/Fax) 787-250-0853; (Cell) 787-547-5225 

In New York: NCC News, 212-870-2227 

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