Transfer of CLAI funds for VI Assembly in Havana embargoed in the U.S.

Transfer of CLAI funds for VI Assembly in Havana embargoed in the U.S.

An early November transfer of U.S. $101,000 from a Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) account in Miami to the Tryp Meliá Hotels in Spain has been embargoed under the United States blockade of Cuba policy.

By Geoffrey Reeson, ALC English editor.*

The Hotel Habana Libre, where the CLAI VI Assembly is scheduled to be held from February 19-24, 2013 in Cuba, is part of the Spanish Tryp Meliá hotel chain and the transfer of the funds to the Meliá account in Spain was to cover the reservation of 220 double rooms for the assembly delegates and invited guests.

Despite CLAI’s detailed explanation to the U.S. financial institutions involved that the purpose of the transfer is for an international religious gathering in Cuba, which has been public information on CLAI’s website for over a year, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury initially had the funds frozen and now embargoed.

Church World Service (CWS), the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the United Methodist Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), have put their legal counsel at CLAI’s disposal for the necessary procedures to seek the release of the funds.

Following a pre-assembly meeting that took place in Havana November 23-24 with CLAI president, Bishop Julio Murray, and general secretary, Rev. Nilton Giese, the Rev. Joel Ortega Dopico, president of the Council of Churches of Cuba (CIC), made public a CIC statement at a press conference on November 26, in which it says that the actions against the transfer of the CLAI funds “is a serious limiting of the freedom of the Christian churches to develop their work of witness and ecumenical service in all of Latin America.”

The CIC statement continues by saying: “While Cuba, accused of not respecting religious freedom, has facilitated all the necessary conditions for our evangelistic task and service to our churches and peoples of the Latin American continent, the United States, that proclaims itself to be an example of religious freedom in the world, limits and restricts it through policies that are ethically unacceptable for any Christian, policies that also represent an epoch that belongs to the past.”

The statement by the Council of Churches of Cuba concludes with a concrete gesture of mobilizing “the Cuban churches in a fund-raising campaign to help offset the expenses of the VI Assembly (…) and calling for the international solidarity of the churches and Christian agencies with which we have fraternal relations (Acts. 11:29).”

*Contributing to this news story were the office of the CLAI General Secretary, Quito, and ALC correspondent in Havana, José Aurelio Paz.