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Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, President of the Council of Bishops, is urging United Methodists to pray for the people of Cuba who are suffering from the devastation of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav.
U.S. government policies are blocking the denomination's desire to provide financial and other assistance to victims in the island nation, said Bishop Palmer. The long term U.S. economic embargo against Cuba's government prevents the United Methodist Committee on Relief from sending money to Cuba to help hurricane victims. Other denominations face the same problem, Palmer said.
The text of Bishop Palmer’s statement follows:
The Pastors and People of the United Methodist Church in the United States
Storms continue to leave tragedy and challenging rebuilding across the United States and in other nations. Through UMCOR, and other denominational and ecumenical partnerships, efforts are being made to offer assistance immediately and in the long term.
The Methodist Church of Cuba, its leaders and people, and their fellow citizens, are the focus of this letter to you. They have been devastated by the recent storms named Gustav and Ike. The 243 congregations with nearly 20,000 members are engaged in cooperative relief efforts.
Because of U.S. government policies, in particular the 2006 year action of non-renewal of a license to the General Board of Global Ministries, reported recently in our church press, we have not been able to send funds into Cuba. Other denominations have also lost their licenses.
As President of the Council of Bishops, I write to you asking:
• That you pray to our God in Jesus Christ, that our sisters and brothers in Cuba have the strength to withstand these storm ravaged weeks and are enabled to recover their lives, property and continue their witness of the gospel.
• That you make response to any appeals which UMCOR, our agencies, bishops and volunteer coordinating groups may make to advance permitted relief and rehabilitation efforts.
• That you be aware of the efforts of the Roman Catholic bishops in the USA in petitioning President Bush, as they wrote, “in light of the devastation and humanitarian disaster caused by recent hurricanes in Cuba and the efforts of extended families, friends and organizations to reach those in need,…(you are urged)… to suspend – even temporarily - Treasury and Commerce Department restrictions and licensing requirements for humanitarian travel and remittances by American citizens and assistance by not-for-profit organizations.”
• That you explore in your congregational learning groups the issues which create these divisions and policies. They tragically prevent the responses we wish to make to the promptings of our hearts and our faith commitments.
With my gratitude for the many ways that your lives and stewardship bring relief and reconciliation across the globe, in the name of Jesus Christ,
Gregory V. Palmer
The Council of Bishops