Cuban council plays important role, United Methodist says
2/13/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
NOTE: A photograph of the Rev. Bruce Robbins is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/headshots.html.
By United Methodist News ServiceThe
council of churches in Cuba serves as an important go-between in the
relationship between Christians and the government, according to a
United Methodist ecumenist.
The Rev. Bruce Robbins, chief
executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Interreligious Concerns, said that even though the Cuban government is
much more open to religious practice these days, "the council plays a
critical role of mediation on behalf of the churches."
was one of a four-person delegation, sponsored by the U.S. National
Council of Churches, who met with Cuban counterparts during a Feb. 6-10
visit. Other members were his wife, Carol Braswell Robbins; the Rev.
Robert Edgar, a United Methodist pastor and the NCC's chief executive;
and the Rev. Oscar Bolioli, a Methodist from Uruguay and the NCC's
long-time liaison to Cuba.
The group visited church projects,
such as clinics and schools; toured a school of medicine established by
the Cuban government; met with relatives of five Cubans convicted of
spying who want visitation rights at the U.S federal prison; visited
with church members from various denominations and had dinner with the
president of Cuba's national assembly.
They also met with the
chief of the U.S. Interest Section and asked about the reason for delays
in granting visas for Cubans traveling to the United States. Cuban
Methodist Bishop Ricardo Pereira, for example, was not able to get a
visa in time to join a meeting of Methodist bishops from the United
States, Latin America and the Caribbean last November in Puerto Rico.
Robbins said they were told the slowdown was due to security concerns
following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Robbins had both
positive and negative experiences during what was his first trip to
Cuba. The Caribbean nation is home to about 10,500 Methodists.
find the churches to be growing and vital in ways that were exciting to
me," he said. He added that he wished more Cuban Methodists could visit
their counterparts in the United States to give witness to their
strength of spirit and vitality of worship.
But Robbins deplored
the suffering caused by longtime sanctions against Cuba by the United
States. "My personal impression is the sanctions are a tragedy," he
said. "The fact they've been imposed for so long shows they have not
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