The National Council of Churches in the U.S. and the Council of Churches of Cuba have issued a joint statement calling for reconciliation between the two countries and committing themselves to “pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that our churches may bear witness to God’s will for justice in economic life.”

The statement was issued Dec. 2 at the end of week-long visit by the highest-level delegation of U.S. religious leaders to Cuba since the island nation’s 1959 revolution and the subsequent U.S. economic blockade.

The statement received unprecedented coverage in the Cuban media. It was read in its entirety on Cuban national television news programs and was published in a full-page spread in most of the countries newspapers, including Granma, the legendary tabloid established after the revolution.

“Everywhere in the streets people are talking about the statement,” Cuban Presbyterian leader Reinerio Arce told the Presbyterian News Service Dec. 6. “It is amazing.”

The statement raises three humanitarian issues the two church councils share: the 53-year-old embargo and its hardships on the Cuban people; the sentences meted out to the “Cuban Five” ― jailed for 13 years after being convicted of espionage against Cuban-American dissidents in Miami; and the incarceration without trial in Cuba of Allen Gross, an American accused of smuggling illegal telecommunications equipment into Cuba last year.

“We … commit ourselves to promote, even more vigorously, the relationship between our churches and church and ecumenical councils,” the statement reads, “and to advocate, even more assertively, for the normalization of relations between our countries.”

The full English text of the statement: 

The National Council of the Churches of Christ (U.S.A.)
The Council of Churches of Cuba
Joint Statement 

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. (II Corinthians 5: 16-20)

We, Protestant, Episcopal and Orthodox church leaders from the United States and from the ecumenical movement in Cuba, and members of both councils of churches, begin this joint statement by giving thanks for signs of God’s reconciling presence in our deeply-divided world. One such sign, we believe, is the history of mutually–nurturing relationships between our churches. These relationships were strengthened when a delegation of Cuban church representatives took part in the 2010 General Assembly of the National Council of Churches (USA) and Church World Service, and are being further enhanced by this visit to Cuba of U.S. church leaders, November 28-December 2, 2011. These times of shared prayer and witness, organized by the councils of churches in our two countries, are expressions of the unity we have in Jesus Christ, a unity far stronger than embargoes and political disputes. Thanks be to God! 

We recall U.S. President Barack Obama’s publicly-stated intention "to review and revise long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba" and pray for its speedy and complete fulfillment. We give thanks for the real, but still-too-tentative, steps toward normal relations between our countries, including the lifting of some travel restrictions by the Obama administration in January of 2011.

We have examined together other contemporary developments, specially the current "updating" of Cuban economic policies; and the growing income disparity and high level of unemployment now affecting so many in the United States. Clearly, our countries are in the midst of significant transitions, historical moment marked by both anxiety and potential. Together we pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that our churches may bear witness to God’s will for justice in economic life (e.g., Isaiah 3, Jeremiah 6, and Amos 4).

We give thanks, not only for God’s presence in the past, but also for God’s promises for a different future — a future in which reconciliation proves stronger than alienation (e.g., Isaiah 65:25). With this in mind, we declare the following shared conviction: that the half century of animosity between our countries must end.

So much has changed in fifty years! The histories of our nations (only ninety miles apart) and their peoples are so deeply intertwined! We have no doubt that it is in the best interest of both Cuba and the U.S. to initiate the sort of normalized relations appropriate to sovereign, and neighboring countries. This position is supported by the international community ― which has sought the lifting of the embargo twenty times in the United Nations General Assembly ― and is an expression of our faith in God’s power to unite. 

There are, of course, important issues that still need our attention, as is true in any relationship between nations, especially nations with a long history of political conflicts and differences, which cause unjustifiable human misunderstanding and suffering. Our pastoral commitment, based in faith in Jesus Christ, drives us to work for the resolution of such humanitarian issues.

These humanitarian issues include:

  1. The embargo, which is the major obstacle to the resolution of differences, to economic interaction, and to fuller engagement of our peoples and churches;
  2. The imprisonment  in the U.S. of the Cuban Five (whose sentences have been deemed unjust by numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the United Nations); and
  3. The incarceration in Cuba of the American citizen Alan Gross.

We write this joint statement at the beginning of Advent, a season of hopeful waiting for the coming of our Lord, for the fulfillment of God´s promise of “peace on earth and good will to all people” (Luke 2:14). Together, we affirm the importance of living in hope, but also to demonstrate the credibility of our hope by acting to help make it so. We, therefore, commit ourselves to promote, even more vigorously, the relationship between our churches and church and ecumenical councils, and to advocate, even more assertively, for the normalization of relations between our countries. Such commitment, we confess, is a response to the One who has bound us to one another (e.g., Ephesians 4:6) and sent us forth to be ambassadors of God´s reconciling love.

To extend our commitments, we pledge to meet again in the year 2013. 

Havana, Cuba.
December 2, 2011

The full Spanish text of the statement:

El Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba
El Consejo Nacional de las Iglesias de Cristo (EE.UU.)
Declaración conjunta 

“Por eso, nosotros ya no pensamos de nadie según los criterios de este mundo; y aunque antes pensábamos de Cristo según tales criterios, ahora ya no pensamos así de él. Por lo tanto, el que está unido a Cristo es una nueva persona. Las cosas viejas pasaron; lo que ahora hay, es nuevo.

“Todo esto es la obra de Dios, quien por medio de Cristo nos puso en paz consigo mismo y nos dio el encargo de poner a todos en paz con él. Es decir que, en Cristo, Dios estaba poniendo en paz al mundo consigo mismo, sin tomar en cuenta los pecados de los hombres; y a nosotros nos encargó que diéramos a conocer este mensaje. Así que somos embajadores de Cristo, lo cual es como si Dios mismo les rogara a ustedes por medio de nosotros. Así pues, en el nombre de Cristo les rogamos que se pongan en paz con Dios” (2ª Corintios 5:1620).

Nosotros, líderes de iglesias protestantes, episcopal y ortodoxas de los Estados Unidos, y del movimiento ecuménico de Cuba y miembros de ambos consejos de iglesias, comenzamos esta Declaración conjunta dando gracias por los signos de la presencia reconciliadora de Dios en nuestro profundamente dividido mundo. Uno de esos signos—así lo creemos—es la historia de las relaciones mutuamente retro-alimentadoras entre nuestras iglesias. Estas relaciones fueron fortalecidas en el 2010, cuando una delegación de representantes de iglesias cubanas participó en la Asamblea General del Consejo Nacional de Iglesias (EE.UU.) y del Servicio Mundial de Iglesias; y están siendo aún más realzadas por esta visita a Cuba de líderes eclesiásticos norteamericanos (28 de noviembre—2 de diciembre de 2011). Estos días de oración y testimonio que hemos compartido, organizados por los consejos de iglesias de nuestros dos países, son expresión de la unidad que tenemos en Jesucristo, una unidad más fuerte que bloqueos y disputas políticas. ¡Gracias sean dadas a Dios!

Recordamos la intención del presidente Barack Obama — públicamente declarada —, de "considerar y revisar la antigua política norteamericana hacia Cuba"; y oramos por su pronto y completo cumplimiento.  Damos gracias a Dios por los pasos reales — pero aún insuficientes — por parte de la administración Obama en enero del 2011 hacia relaciones normales entre nuestros dos países, incluyendo el levantamiento de algunas restricciones para viajar.

Juntos hemos examinado otros acontecimientos contemporáneos, especialmente la presente “actualización” de las políticas económicas cubanas; y la creciente disparidad y alto nivel de desempleo que ahora afecta a tantas personas en los Estados Unidos. Claramente, nuestros países están en medio de transiciones importantes, un momento histórico marcado tanto por la ansiedad como por las posibilidades. Oramos juntos, pidiendo la guía del Espíritu Santo, para que nuestras iglesias puedan dar testimonio de la voluntad de Dios por la justicia en la vida económica (Isaías 3, Jeremías 6, y Amós 4).

Damos gracias no solamente por la presencia de Dios en el pasado, sino por las promesas de Dios de un futuro diferente — un futuro en el que la reconciliación pruebe ser más fuerte que la alienación (Isaías 65:25). Con esto en mente, afirmamos la siguiente convicción que compartimos: que medio siglo de animosidad entre nuestros países, debe terminar.

¡Muchas cosas han cambiado en cincuenta años! ¡Las historias de nuestras naciones y pueblos — separadas solamente por noventa millas — están íntimamente hermanadas! No dudamos que es en el mejor interés para Cuba y los Estados Unidos, iniciar la normalización de relaciones, como conviene a países soberanos y vecinos. Esta posición es apoyada por la comunidad internacional, la cual ha pedido veinte veces en la Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas, el levantamiento del bloqueo, como una expresión de nuestra fe en el poder de Dios  para unir.

Hay, ciertamente, asuntos importantes que requieren nuestra atención, como sucede en cualquier relación entre naciones, especialmente naciones con una larga historia de conflictos y diferencias políticas, que provocan desencuentros y sufrimientos humanos injustificables. Nuestro compromiso pastoral, basado en nuestra fe en Jesucristo, nos impele a trabajar por la resolución de dichos asuntos humanitarios.

Estos asuntos humanitarios incluyen:

  1. El bloqueo, que es el mayor obstáculo para la resolución de las diferencias, la interacción económica y un total compromiso de nuestros pueblos e iglesias.
  2. La encarcelación en los Estados Unidos  de los Cinco Cubanos (cuyas sentencias  han sido consideradas injustas por numerosas organizaciones de derechos humanos, Amnistía Internacional e, incluso, Naciones Unidas); y
  3. La encarcelación en Cuba del ciudadano norteamericano Alan Gross.

Emitimos esta Resolución conjunta al comienzo del Adviento, una estación del calendario cristiano, llena de esperanza por la venida de nuestro Señor, y por el cumplimiento de las promesas de Dios de “paz en la tierra y buena voluntad para todos los pueblos” (San Lucas 2:14). Juntos afirmamos la importancia de vivir en esperanza, pero también demostrando la credibilidad de nuestra esperanza a través de la acción para contribuir a hacerla realidad. Por lo tanto, nos comprometemos a promover, aún más vigorosamente, la relación entre nuestras iglesias y consejos de iglesias; y a abogar, aún más segura y firmemente, por la normalización de relaciones entre nuestros países. Tal compromiso—lo afirmamos—, es una respuesta al Único que nos ha unido unos a otros (Efesios 4:6), y enviado a ser embajadores del amor reconciliador de Dios.

Para continuar nuestra labor común, nos comprometemos reunirnos de nuevo en el año 2013. 

La Habana, Cuba,
2 de diciembre de 2011.

Members of the NCC delegation included: the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk, and Loyda Aja, associate stated clerk, of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Bishop John F. White Sr. and Bishop Sarah of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; the Rev. Dick Hamm, executive director of Christian Churches Together; the Rev. John McCullough, executive director and CEO of Church World Service; Archbishop Vicken Aykazian of the Armenian Church of America; the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding biship of the Episcopal Church; Bishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; the Rev. Betsy Miller, president of the Provincial Elders Conference of the Moravian Church-Northern Province; the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, recently retired head of the Reformed Church in America; the Rev. Geoffrey Black, president and general minister for the United Church of Christ; Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader, secretary of the Council of Bishops for the United Methodist Church; the Rev. Rebecca Ball Miller, Church of the Brethren; the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the NCC, and his wife, Mardine Davis; and this reporter, who serves as chair of the Communication Commission of the NCC.