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NCC officers support Cuban church plea to Obama
to review case and grant visas for the 'Cuban Five'

New York, December 6, 2009 -- The President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches have endorsed and forwarded  to President Obama a message from 37 Cuban church leaders asking for a review of the case of the "Cuban Five," and for the granting of visas so the Cuban prisoners held in the U.S. can be visited by their families.

"The churches that make up the National Council of Churches have long supported a review of the judicial proceedings that led to the sentencing (we believe unjust) of the so-called 'Cuban Five,'" said the message signed by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon. "And we have supported the granting of visas to their wives so that they may, at least, visit their imprisoned husbands. With this in mind, we forward to you the enclosed letter, signed by colleagues in Cuba, with a prayer that you will take their plea to heart."

The Cuban Five are Gerardo Hernandez, Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino, Antonio Guerrero and Rene Gonzalez.

The five were Cuban intelligence officers convicted of espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, and other illegal activities in the U.S. They were allegedly attempting to infiltrate U.S.-based Cuban exile groups who were organizing illegal and occasionally violent activities in Cuba. The Cuban government claims their presence in the U.S. was a measure to counter terrorist activities against Cuba.

From the day of their arrests in 1998, the five spent 17 months of solitary confinement in Miami, and the Cuban government claims evidence belonging to the defendants, including family pictures, correspondence and recipes, was branded as "secret" by the U.S. government and not presented to their defense attorneys. These and other legal aberrations have attracted international attention and have raised questions about the fairness of their trial.

The letter from the Cuban church leaders, addressed to both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, took note of the President's Nobel Peace Prize and praised his reputation as an advocate of human rights.

"We are asking that you help in having this case be re-examined, considering the hundreds of documents compiled by the defence, the decision of the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of 2005 and the frequent violations of human rights that have occurred in this process, which have been acknowledged by international institutions, parliaments, and international public opinion," the Cuban church leaders wrote.

"President Obama, you are a man who has taken steps towards the way of justice, as an heir of Martin Luther King, and we thank God for that. The Nobel Peace Prize you have received is an honour, and a challenge to further the principles of justice that the award represents."

The Cubans appealed to Mrs. Obama's compassion as a mother to understand the pain of spouses who are prevented from seeing their husbands.


The full text of the appeal from Cuban leaders follows:

Havana City, November 2009   

President and Mrs. Michelle Obama
White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President and Michelle Obama: 

Peace and grace to you. We greet you with great affection.

We are a group of Cuban protestant women, lay leaders, pastors, and theologians that are addressing you as the family presiding over the government of the United States of America.

We believe you have been elected in a transparent electoral process, with the endorsement of the vast majority of your people, and we are glad that is the case. It is a great responsibility for both of you, as “God has chosen you for this time” as Mordecai would say when defending the Jewish people, before Queen Esther (Esther 4: 14 b). We have asked God to bless you in your responsibility to lead the destiny of your nation as well as your relations with the rest of the world.

On the occasion of such a meaningful celebration of the Thanksgiving Day, in which two cultures met in an historical effort to achieve reconciliation and unity, we are addressing you to request that the case of the Cuban five men in prison since 1998 in the USA, charged with espionage be reviewed.  Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, René González, Fernando González and Gerardo Hernández have been in prison for eleven long years.

They were sentenced in 2001. A long process of appeals has taken place over the last several years.  The defence has emphasised the bias of the case, the extreme sentencing, and the fact that US national security was never endangered (affirmed by high level representatives of the US Army). And yet, only three of them have managed to be returned to their home in Miami.

We are asking that you help in having this case be re-examined, considering the hundreds of documents compiled by the defence, the decision of the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals of 2005 and the frequent violations of human rights that have occurred in this process, which have been acknowledged by international institutions, parliaments, and international public opinion.

President Obama, you are a man who has taken steps towards the way of justice, as an heir of Martin Luther King, and we thank God for that. The Nobel Peace Prize you have received is an honour, and a challenge to further the principles of justice that the award represents.

Michelle, we admire you and we hope that as a wife and mother, you may be able to feel for Adriana and her inability to procreate as she is unable to unite with her husband.

In this Thanksgiving season, your support could change the uncertain destiny of these young men, allowing them to return to their homes, back to their families, to enjoy the same well-being and joy that you experience with your two daughters.

May God, who is life and Shalom, light your way and encourage you with his Spirit of justice and truth with your work.

Sincerely and gratefully,

Rev. Ofelia Ortega, President of the World Council of Churches, Vice-president of the World Reformed Alliance, Director of the Christian Institute for Gender Studies.

Rev. Dora Arce Valentín, pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, theologian and professor of Matanzas Theological Evangelical Seminary.

Rev. María Yi Reina, Church of the Quaker Friends, Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).

Rev. Nerva Cott Aguilera, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.
    
Rev. Dr. Marianela de la Paz Cott, professor of Matanzas Theological Evangelical Seminary, presbyter of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

Rev. Raquel Suárez, pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, coordinator of the Women and Gender Ministries of CLAI-CUBA, and of the Woman and Gender Program of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

Rev. Estela Hernández, Director of the Juan Francisco Naranjo Christian Center, pastor of the William Carey Baptist Church, former President of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba.

Dr. Clara Luz Ajo Lázaro, Episcopal lay leader, theologian, professor of Matanzas Theological Evangelical Seminary.

Rev. Daylins Rufín, pastor of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, Director of the Studies Center of the Council of Churches of Cuba, professor of Matanzas Theological Evangelical Seminary.

Presbyter Miriam Naranjo Alonso, Moderator of the Presbytery of the Center of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba.

Lic. Kirenia Criado Pérez, theologian and coordinator of the Theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training Program of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.  

Presbyter Yolanda Alonso Carrazana, pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Meneses, Cuba. President of the Christian Education Committee of the Presbytery of the Center of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba.

Daisy Rojas Gómez, lay leader, Ebenezer Baptist Church of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, member of the Board of Directors of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center and member of the National Committee of the World Women’s March.  

Nacyra Gómez Cruz, Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, Secretary of International Relations of the Christian Conference for Peace for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Lic. Ailed Villalba, lay leader of the Episcopal Church, specialist of the Theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training Program of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.  

Presbyter Izett Samá Hernández, pastor of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba, theologian.

Lic. Alicia Sevila Hidalgo, lay leader of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, specialist of the Theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training Program of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.  

Rev. Coralia Teresa Blanco Elissalde, theologian, pastor of the Shalom Baptist Church, specialist of the Theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training Program of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.  

Norma Martínez Correa, Governing Presbyter of the Presbyterian Reformed Church in Taguasco, President of the Constructions Committee of the Presbytery of the Center of the Presbyterian Reformed Church.

Lic. Margarita de la Caridad Valdés Valdés, lay leader of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba, specialist of the Theological and Pastoral Reflection and Training Program of the Martin Luther King Center in Havana.  

Esperanza Brancho Blanco, member of the Board of the Episcopal Church of Cuba.

Rev. Olga Rodríguez Morón, pastor of the Bethany Baptist Church, Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba.

Lic. Ana Lidia Orman Reyes, deaconess of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, facilitator of the national team of the Sexual Health and HIV-AIDS Project of the Community Health Program of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

Lic. Sarahí García Gómez, lay leader, Presbyterian Church, Vice-president of the World Federation of Christian Student Movements for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Lic. Zulema Hidalgo, coodinator of the Program against Violence of the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Catholic Group.

Olga Morales Pacheco, Catholic lay leader, Oscar Arnulfo Romero Group.

Lic. Nery Cadalso, psychologist, deaconess of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Presbyter Virgen Laborde Figueras, United Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Lic. Soraya Guillén, Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Dr. Elina Ceballos Villalón, Presbyterian Reformed Church, coordinator of the Deaconry Department of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

Deaconess Martha Yolanda Romero Lorenzo, United Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Deaconess Yamilka Hernández Guzman, United Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Roselis Laborde Montes de Oca, United Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Miladys Herrera, lay leader of the United Evangelical Church of Lutheran Confession.

Liliam González, lay leader of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba. Coordinator of the  Woman and Gender Program of the Council of Churches of Cuba.

Ing. Elisabeth González, lay leader of the Fraternity of Baptist Churches of Cuba liturgical leader in the Matanzas Theological Evangelical Seminary.

Lic Cira María Díaz, Cristian Reformed Church in Cuba, theologian.


NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , pjenks@ncccusa.org

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