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COMMEMORATIVE CONFERENCE OF THE 80TH ANNIVERSARY
“Towards a transformative mission and evangelization of the Latin American Protestant churches at the beginning of the 21st Century”
For, behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth: and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Cuban churches:
Greetings of peace and joy in our Lord, Jesus Christ.
We, the representatives of churches and ecumenical organizations from 19 Latin American and Caribbean countries, invited by the Cuban Council of Churches (CIC), the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Centre, the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) are meeting here, in Matanzas, Cuba, from 22 to 26 June, in order to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Havana Hispano-American Evangelical Congress (1929). We have arrived in Cuba at a historical moment when the unfair blockade imposed by the Government of the United States against the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people remains and the situation deteriorates with the global economic crises. Furthermore, to this has been added, in recent years, the imprisonment of our five Cuban brothers, who have been deprived of the most elemental human rights, suffering from unfair treatment and cruelty against their personal integrity, as well as ignoring the judicial procedures contemplated by international law and the Constitution of the United States itself.
We admire these courageous people who, with integrity and determination, seek to defend the achievements reached through the Cuban revolution in the fields of education, health, culture and standard of living, among others. We are grateful for the solidarity that Cuba has shown consistently with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and other regions of the world, through sending doctors to humanitarian missions and other disasters caused by natural phenomena, as well as offering free education to Medicine students and sharing the programme called “Yes, I can” in order to eradicate illiteracy in several countries.
We have brought, from our own contexts, the heavy burden of neoliberal politics, which exclude and marginalize the majority of our population. Although democracy has gained ground, the system is still not responding to the needs of the less favoured social classes – especially the indigenous peoples, the afro-descendant cultures, women, children, youth, people with disabilities and the elderly population – and it continues practicing economic exploitation, violence and destruction of their culture. This injustice prevents peace based on economic justice and full human development in most of the continent. Living the mission in this context is breaking the wall of indifference and developing solidarity together. The faces of these historical individuals are evangelizing us and make the face of God visible, because…”The truth reveals itself more clearly to the poor and to those who suffer” (José Martí).
There are other challenges threatening our people. An economic system that, through violence, causes the destruction of the Earth and makes the whole creation groan as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22).
The European and North American churches, with which we have a relationship that we express and live in our mutual partnership in mission, have joined their efforts to those the Latin American and Caribbean churches. With these churches, we continue trying to raise awareness among the European, North American and Canadian governments, so that they start meaningful changes in their power structures. The purpose is to achieve greater equity, balance and fair treatment in trade, economic, financial and market-pricing relations. The external debt, an unfair burden for our people, is a reflect of the unfairness of the current international financial system. In many occasions, this cause acquires a prophetic dimension which is also aimed at denouncing the corruption and complicity of these unfair practices, favoured and concealed by the governments of our countries.
These are times of turbulence and confusion: critical times
There are religious movements that impose themselves from the imperial power centres, exporting oppressive and manipulative religious domination models. They are presented in a tempting way and they are idols intended to replace the true God. Some of its manifestations are the theology of prosperity, the theology of spiritual war, the apostolic networks with their hierarchies and authoritarianism, which confuse the concept of ministry while promoting schemes and codes of conduct for economic power, privileges and distortion of the true meaning of the evangelizing power as service in the kingdom of God. (Mark, 10:35-45).
These are times of reaffirmation and hope
We reaffirm our commitment with the constant search of our own protestant, Caribbean and Latin American identity within the daily reality of our people. With humility, we take up God’s challenge to get involved in the struggle for God’s kingdom in the midst of the conflicts of history. The unity in diversity that we wish to promote is in itself an announcement of the kingdom by the Grace of God. We must bear witness of this unity, overcoming the barriers of hatred, prejudice and all forms of oppression for the accomplishment of the holistic mission of the church (Isaiah 58:2 – 8, Mathew 25:31-46)
There are cumulative experiences of resistance, from a spirituality that embraces and emphasizes the true values of the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:22 – 25). The evangelization becomes an announcement, a testimony and a liberating practice that heals, restores, reconciles and transforms life. These values invigorate hope. We are certain that, in spite of it all, the Spirit is calling us for life, It gives us the strength to participate actively in the new things that God is creating in history (Romans 8:26-27). It is our opportunity to become the collaborators of God in what God is blessing. As the song written by Bishop Federico Pagura says:
So we today have hope and expectation.
So we today can struggle with conviction.
So we today can trust we have a future,
so we have hope.
During the opening liturgical ceremony of this commemoration, a group of elderly women of the Project ‘Weavers of Hope” of the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET), gave each participant of the event small butterflies woven in different colours as a gift. We take this gift with us with the promise to continue praying for the Cuban people and churches, so that this hope becomes a reality in this society which is becoming increasingly fair and which, as every other society, can be improved. We promise to continue invigorating hope in our daily struggle.
José Martí, the apostle of Cuba and all America, emphasized with righteous conviction “It is the time of mobilization, of marching together, and we must go forward in close ranks, like silver in the roots of the Andes."
With our dreams and hopes, we will continue walking with faith, knowing that the Resurrected Christ is walking ahead of us.
Evangelical Theological Seminary, Matanzas, Cuba
26 June 2009.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , firstname.lastname@example.org
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