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2000 NCC News Archives

NCC Cuba Trip Hopes To Win Elian Gonzalez's Return To His Father

January 2-5, 2000, Havana and Cardenas, Cuba--Two (U.S.) National Council of Churches representatives plan to travel to Cuba to meet with six-year-old Elian Gonzalez's father and other immediate family members in Cardenas and with U.S. and Cuban government officials and the Cuban Council of Churches, the NCC's partner/host, in Havana.

The NCC is making public its heretofore behind-the-scenes effort to win Elian's return to his father. "This visit prepares us to testify on behalf of the family," said the NCC's Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell.

Dr. Campbell and the Rev. Oscar Bolioli travel by invitation of the Cuban Council of Churches, which is the NCC's partner in the effort and is making on-the-ground arrangements. Dr. Campbell today (Dec. 30) shared her travel plans with the White House. She and the Rev. Bolioli expect to meet with Vicki Huddleston, Principal Officer at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and with Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba's Popular Assembly.

"Our hope all along has been for Elian to be returned quickly to his family," said Dr. Campbell, who expressed her concern that the child's interests be placed first, ahead of political interests. "Our concern is humanitarian, not political," she said. "We hold that except in cases of abuse, children are best served when they are with their parents, and all indications are that this is a good, loving father. It's not the 'way of life' but the care within the home that's key to a child's well-being. Those who say Elian should stay in the United States because 'the way of life is better' ignore the meaning of family."

Dr. Campbell, with more than three decades' experience in global, national and local ecumenism and human service, has served as the NCC's General Secretary (chief executive officer) for the past nine years. On January 1, 2000, she turns that office over to the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, who asked her to make the Cuba trip based on her more than two-decades' long relationship with the Cuban churches and her experience with U.S. and Cuban governments. The Rev. Bolioli is Director, NCC/Church World Service Latin America and Caribbean Office. Carol Fouke of the NCC's Communication Department will accompany the team as media liaison.

The National Council of Churches, headquartered in New York City, is the nation's leading ecumenical organization, whose 35 Protestant and Orthodox member denominations comprise 52 million congregants. Church World Service is the NCC's humanitarian assistance ministry and works in more than 80 countries, including the United States. In a systematic way over the past eight years, the NCC/CWS has responded to specific requests for help from the Cuban Council of Churches and its Medical Commission for food, medicine, medical equipment and other goods to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of Cuban society – women, children and the elderly. The more than 40 shipments are valued at $10 million. The NCC also has advocated consistently for an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba. The NCC team is scheduled to arrive in Havana late Sunday night, January 2, and to stay at Hotel Copacabana. Preliminary schedule/logistics – to be finalized/confirmed by the Cuban Council of Churches – anticipate spending Monday, January 3, in Cardenas to visit Elian's family, and Tuesday, January 4, in Havana, with departure early morning Wednesday, January 5.

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