The Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy is one of the faith-based groups signing on to a letter to President Biden concerning Cuba and a statement calling for a return to the Iran nuclear deal.
The letter sent to President Biden about Cuba expresses concern for the humanitarian situation on the island related to the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest, and economic struggles, and calls for “steps to remove all obstacles preventing families and faith-based communities in the U.S. from helping families and faith partners in Cuba.”
The statement on Iran calls for “a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by the United States and Iran.” It says, in part: “We are deeply concerned by recent news reports suggesting that negotiations between Iran and the United States on a return to the JCPOA are on the verge of collapse, heightening the risk of war and nuclear proliferation. We strongly urge the Biden administration to remain at the negotiating table and have the courage to act boldly for peace.”
The full text of the Cuba letter follows:
June 29, 2022
Dear President Biden:
As representatives of faith-based denominations and organizations, many of whom have a long history of relationships with Cuban faith partners, we are writing to thank you and your administration for taking measures to lift some of the harmful restrictions imposed on Cuba and the Cuban people. We appreciate that you have recognized the unprecedented humanitarian situation on the island. We hope these initial positive steps will help increase support for the Cuban people and allow Cuban Americans to assist their families on the island.
At the same time, we are still deeply concerned about the situation on the island. Our partners in the Cuban churches—congregants, ministers, and their communities— continue to experience severe shortages of essential medicines, food, and other vital materials amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. And as you know, the current crisis is causing tens of thousands of Cubans to leave and seek better conditions in the United States. We appreciate State Department officials who expressed their willingness to help churches and denominations get humanitarian relief to Cuban faith-based partners on a case-by-case basis. But this willingness has not solved the problems we face. And the initial measures taken by your administration, while critical first steps, are not enough.
We are aware of the political situation in Cuba, and many of our faith organizations have made clear statements supporting the Cuban people’s right to protest peacefully. We hope the Cuban government will respond to protests with dialogue and action. As in other countries, we condemn heavy-handed responses to protests by security forces. We urge the government to release all those detained for peacefully protesting or reporting on the protests. But this political unrest is not a reason to further punish the Cuban people with an overly restrictive implementation of U.S. economic and trade policies.
We know that numerous factors have caused Cuba’s economic crisis. However, the U.S. embargo and the changes adopted by the previous administration have contributed to the worsening humanitarian situation the island is facing. We were encouraged by your administration’s initial steps, but we believe you must do more. The U.S. government must take the following steps to remove all obstacles preventing families and faith-based communities in the U.S. from helping families and faith partners in Cuba.
— Reinstate all forms of people-to-people travel, both group and individual.
— Ensure that the U.S. Embassy in Havana can provide full consular services so that responsibilities are no longer exported to its embassy in Guyana.
— Revise and remove restrictions on U.S. banks so they can establish corresponding accounts with Cuban banks not managed by the military. Reverse the prohibition on U-turn transactions, and allow Western Union wire services to resume. These steps would ease access to remittances and maximize their impact, especially for Cuban entrepreneurs.
— Resume bilateral conversations around the Memorandums of Understanding signed under the Obama administration, including the high-priority issues of counter-narcotics and law enforcement cooperation, environmental protection, food security, and public health.
— Remove Cuba from the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, which continues to complicate all significant aspects of engagement with the island, including delivery of humanitarian assistance.
U.S. and Cuban churches have worked together for many years toward common goals. As religious freedom in Cuba has improved, our relationships have grown more robust, and church membership has grown. We join our Cuban counterparts in urging your administration to take these additional steps to benefit the people, churches, and civil society in Cuba.
The full text of the statement on Iran follows:
As people of faith, we are called to seek peace and imagine a world free from war and the threats of nuclear weapons. Today, we are calling on President Biden to move one step closer to that vision through a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by the United States and Iran. We are deeply concerned by recent news reports suggesting that negotiations between Iran and the United States on a return to the JCPOA are on the verge of collapse, heightening the risk of war and nuclear proliferation. We strongly urge the Biden administration to remain at the negotiating table and have the courage to act boldly for peace.
Reestablishment of the Iran nuclear deal would be a significant victory for peace, diplomacy, and stability in the Middle East. It would strengthen U.S., Iranian, and international security by placing constraints on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international economic sanctions. We strongly affirm the importance of diplomacy over war on moral and religious grounds and call on President Biden to take the necessary steps to secure a return to the JCPOA.
After the United States withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, tensions with Iran escalated and brought our nations to the brink of catastrophic war. But progress requires negotiation and compromise, not threats and intimidation. Our faith tells us that lasting peace can only be achieved through peaceful means. Lifting economic sanctions in accordance with the JCPOA will also help end the humanitarian suffering of innocent Iranians, who have borne the brunt of the economic crisis and been denied access to life-saving medicines and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The faith community has long worked to build more cooperation and peaceful relations between the United States and Iran. Decades before the original nuclear deal was achieved in 2015, we called for diplomatic negotiations with Iran, helping to organize meetings with Iranian government officials and sending delegations of faith leaders to Iran. Many of us supported the original nuclear deal and joined with others to protest President Trump’s 2018 decision to withdraw from this agreement and impose new sanctions on Iran.
The JCPOA was always meant to be a starting point. While there are many issues that should be resolved diplomatically between the United States, Iran, and other governments in the region, a full return to the nuclear deal could serve as a foundation for future negotiations. We strongly urge the Biden administration to negotiate a swift return to the JCPOA. Doing so will put Iran’s nuclear program back in the box, lift harmful economic sanctions, prevent possible military escalation, and put the Middle East and the world on a pathway to greater peace and stability.
— Find out more about the work of the Church of the Brethren’s Office of Peacebuilding and Policy in Washington, D.C., at www.brethren.org/peace.
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