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2000 NCC News Archives

Statement by Robert Edgar, General Secretary, National Council of Churches, Regarding Elian Gonzalez

January 8, 2000
New York, NY

The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) regrets that Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana wants a six year-old boy to appear before Congress. Little Elian Gonzalez deserves to be reunited immediately with his biological father and closest family members in Cuba. The longer this whole process drags on, the more disconnected this small child becomes from those who have raised him and who love him. Using delaying tactics to prevent this child from going home is unseemly and it isn't fair to use him as a pawn in a political dispute.

As a former Representative in Congress, I will use the knowledge gained through 6 terms to discover if a logical and compassionate solution can be found. This is a time when people of good will should focus on the needs of one little boy rather than on how he can be useful for some other purpose.

I'm hopeful that this tragic situation can have a positive effect. Throughout the generations, children often have pointed the way to a new way of looking at things. The Bible says that "a little child shall lead them." Elian Gonzalez could be the catalyst for a changed relationship between the peoples of Cuba and the U.S. His safe return should mark a commitment to finding ways to be more caring and generous with each other.

The NCC became involved in this concern through an invitation from the Cuban Council of Churches, with whom we have had a relationship of trust and understanding for many decades. At their request, I sent a mission to Cuba to determine the worthiness of the father and family to receive the child. In that mission was my immediate predecessor as General Secretary, Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, and Rev. Oscar Bolioli, head of the NCC Latin America and Caribbean office.

The report of my team was conclusive: Juan Miguel Gonzalez is a loving and good father and the grandparents and extended family wish Elian to be returned to them now. Rev. Bolioli and Rev. Campbell have told me that this is the just solution and that the boy should be returned home to his family who love him. The team continues to be in touch with the family on behalf of the NCC and the team will assist in the return of the boy, as they were requested to do by the family, should the Immigration and Naturalization Service decide that the NCC can play a useful role.

Our involvement is in keeping with our long-standing concern for the children of Cuba who receive humanitarian assistance from us in the form of medicines, school kits and health kits. It also is in accord with our long history of sponsoring family reunions for Cubans separated over the years.

I pray that this little boy can become a symbol for affirming the humanity in each person, wherever they live. Make no mistake, The National Council of Churches is unequivocally in favor of reuniting the boy with his father and closest family members. This child needs his father and he needs him now. He must be taken home.

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