Religious leaders urge US president Biden to end embargo against the Cuban people

In a 15 October letter to US president Joe Biden, leaders from the World Council of Churches, ACT Alliance, Council of Churches in Cuba, and other faith-based groups urged an end to nearly 60 years of embargo against the Cuban people, who are facing an appalling humanitarian situation.

Havana, Cuba.

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC, 2013.

The Obama administration, with your support, sought to rethink the policy and pursue re-engagement with Cuba, by relaxing sanctions, allowing direct flights between the two countries, and easing restrictions on US citizens traveling to and doing business in Cuba,” the letter reads, adding that former president Trump reversed that strategy, leading to severe economic repercussions for the Cuban people.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the problems in Cuba,” reads the letter. We ask you to take a bold choice and end the embargo against the Cuban people.”

The letter also acknowledges the significant political pressures and obstacles to this course of action. 

We do not see real public evidence to believe that Cuba has the will, means and capacity to sponsor global terrorism,” reads the letter. We strongly believe that there are other ways to engage with the Cuban authorities to discuss and overcome disagreements on issues and legacies, without affecting the people who want to live in human dignity.”

Read the full letter

UN maintains pressure on Philippine human rights, ICHRP calls for independent investigation

October 7, 2021 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Michelle Bachelet, presented her oral report on the Philippines to the UNHRC today, one year after the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed a resolution to provide “technical cooperation and capacity-building” to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines for the protection of human rights.

Ms Bachelet noted the progress of the UN Joint Program for technical assistance and capacity-building on human rights, adopted only on July 22 this year. She also noted the ongoing lack of accountability for the killings and rights violations in the counterinsurgency program; continuing harassment, threats and killings of human rights defenders, church workers, environmental and land rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists, farmers and lawyers. She singled out the killing of 9 indigenous Tumandok leaders on Panay on December 30, 2020, and the killing of 9 community leaders during the Bloody Sunday operation on March 7, 2021. She maintained her criticism of the government’s red-tagging against activists, media and other actors, and called for an end to the hate language during the unfolding national election campaign. 

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) fully endorses High Commissioner Bachelet’s comment that the decision of the International Criminal Court Pre-Trial Chamber to open an investigation in the Philippines is a significant indication of the inadequate, if not non-existent, domestic remedies in the country. 

The formal response of the Philippine Delegate demonstrated that the Duterte government continues to reject any criticism of its human rights record, doubling down on its use of red-tagging to terrorise any critics by alleging without evidence that they recruit fighters for the New People’s Army.

The Duterte government continues to use the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), created at the end of 2018, as the government framework to repress civilian dissent.  Human rights violations will continue unless the NTF-ELCAC is declared unconstitutional and dissolved. ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy calls  “The Duterte government’s claims to uphold human rights and respect the UN Human Rights Council shamelessly hypocritical”.

High Commissioner Bachelet detailed some of the many human rights violations which have taken place since last October. INVESTIGATE PH, an independent international civil society initiative, reported extensive violations of economic, social, and cultural rights of the Filipino people, as well as violations of the rights to development, self-determination, and peace. The Duterte administration’s war on dissent is now using mechanisms and tactics which were previously used in the notorious war on poor people to target alleged drug users (such as tokhang-style killings by police) to maintain its state terror to control the people. 

High Commissioner Bachelet’s report clearly demonstrated the lack of domestic mechanisms in the Philippines to end such human rights violations. In the wake of the worsening human rights situation, ICHRP reiterates the recommendations of INVESTIGATE PH, including the authorization of an international independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines. ICHRP also calls on the UNHRC to maintain its efforts to hold the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and its officials accountable for the thousands of violations of human rights carried out as official state policies.###

For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301 chairperson@ichrp.net 

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a global network of organizations, concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines and committed to campaign for just and lasting peace in the country.

NIFEA E-Conference: Degrowth – Living Sufficiently and Sustainably

Organised by the Council for World Mission (CWM), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), World Council of Churches (WCC) and World Methodist Council (WMC) under the New International Financial and Economic Architecture (NIFEA) initiative, the NIFEA E-conference on “Degrowth – Living Sufficiently and Sustainably” will be a space to discuss and unpack various visions of “de-growth” or “post-growth” with a view to addressing the urgent eco-crisis and pandemic of inequality besetting the planet today.  

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

1 October 2021 (Friday)

 

Session 1: 10:00 – 12:00 CEST
Click here to register for session 1

 

Session 2: 14:00 – 16:00 CEST
Click here to register for session 2

 

How do we address the contradictions between modern society’s obsession with limitless economic growth and the ecological limits of our only planetary home? Are there models of the good life that meet the needs of all people, share wealth and power, whilst nurturing the environment? What resources do we have and what strategies can we employ as faith communities to empower a just and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a just transition from a growth-oriented, extractivist economic paradigm to a life-affirming economy where all of God’s creation can flourish?

The NIFEA E-conference takes the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a vital backdrop for reflections and aims to promote discussions towards developing a short ecumenical message directed to the G20 Leaders’ Summit taking place in Rome from 30-31 October 2021 on theme of “People, Planet and Prosperity”.

Session 1, 10:00 – 12:00

Moderator:
Dr Rogate Mshana, moderator (Tanzania, Oikotree)

Speakers:
Lemaima Jennifer Vai’i (Fiji, Pacific Conference of Churches)
Dr George Zachariah (India and New Zealand, Trinity College)
Dr Martin Kopp (France, Federation of Protestant Churches in France)
Prof Lalrindiki Ralte (India, Aizawl Theological College)
Rosario Guzman (Philippines, Ibon Foundation)

Summary of the discussion:
Rev Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

 

Session 2, 14:00 – 16:00

Moderator:
Rev Dr Gordon Cowans, moderator (Jamaica, Ecumenical Panel on a NIFEA)

Speakers:
Rev Chebon Kernell (USA, Native American Comprehensive Plan, United Methodist Church
Dr Arnie Saiki (USA-Hawaii, Imipono Projects)
Dr Fundiswa Kobo (South Africa, University of South Africa)

Dr Priya Lukka (UK, Goldsmith University)
Rev Rozemarijn van’t Einde (Netherlands, De Klimaatwakers)

Summary of the discussion:
Rev Dr Peter Cruchley (CWM), Rev Dr Sivin Kit (LWF), Rev Philip Peacock (WCRC), Athena Peralta (WCC), and Bishop Rosemarie Wenner (WMC)

Interpretation into Spanish will be available for this session.

Panelist bios:

Lemaima Jennifer Vai’i is a young person from the Methodist Church in Fiji and the Pacific Conference of Churches. She is passionate about climate justice and is part of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat Youth Team.

Dr George Zachariah is from India and is currently the Wesley Lecturer in Theological Studies and Coordinator of the Research Committee at Trinity College in Auckland, New Zealand.

Dr Martin Kopp chairs the Commission on Ecology and Climate Justice of the Federation of Protestant Churches in France and holds a doctorate in Protestant theology from the University of Strasbourg.

Prof Lalrindiki Ralte is an Indigenous person from Mizoram, India and teaches theology and ethics at the Aizawl Theological College.

Rosario Guzman is the executive editor and head of research at Ibon Foundation – a non-profit research, education and information-development institution based in the Philippines.

Rev Chebon Kernell serves as executive director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan of the United Methodist Church in the USA and a member of the WCC’s Ecumenical Indigenous People’s Reference Group.

Dr Arnie Saiki is from Hawaii, coordinates Imipono Projects and authored the book, “Ecological-Economic Accounts: Towards Intemerate Values.”

Dr Fundiswa Kobo is a senior lecturer on Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology at the University of South Africa.

Dr Priya Lukka is a lecturer in economics at Goldsmith University in the UK. Previously she worked with ChristianAid.

Rev Rozemarijn van’t Einde is a pastor in the Netherlands and co-initiated and is a spokesperson for De Klimaatwakersor Climate Watchers.

Alert! WMC Conference further postponed

Due to the continuing challenging times from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the twenty-second Conference of the World Methodist Council was further postponed.

At the two-day virtual meeting of the Steering Committee in August, it was unanimously agreed that the global WMC family from around the world could not safely gather in Gothenburg, Sweden in August of 2022. President J.C. Park announces that a new date for the Conference will be set in the Spring of 2022.

WMC Program Chair Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins and members of the host committee including Bishop Christian Alstead, Uniting Church President Lasse Svensson and others were consulted. Everyone agreed that a more meaningful Conference could be held at a later date. On the Move will continue to be the theme, and the issues of Migration, Justice and Hospitality are evident to be more pertinent now than when the theme was initially chosen.

More information on the Conference will be published as available in this newsletter, on the web pages of the Council and Conference, and Twitter.

Thank you for staying with us in partnership, as we the Methodist, Wesleyan and United church family, continue together On the Move.

In letter to President Biden, WCC appeals for reconsidering sanctions against North Korea

While we share many of the concerns upon which these sanctions are based, they have failed to resolve those concerns, despite being among the most rigorous, systemic and longest-standing sanctions regimes ever imposed,” reads the letter. Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of the current sanctions have had very serious negative impacts on humanitarian access and action in North Korea.”

Though it is often affirmed that sanctions are not intended to harm ordinary people or to prevent humanitarian assistance, in practice the sanctions have presented major obstacles to such efforts, notes the letter.

In addition to food shortages, reported health crises, and recent floods in North Korea represent a heavy toll of suffering for the people of the country,” reads the letter. Several of our organizations are ready and standing by to offer needed humanitarian aid and services as soon as circumstances permit.”

Sauca also called for a new general license for humanitarian goods and services, and an approved banking channel for these purposes. Furthermore, we consider that the current sanctions regime and travel ban are counterproductive to the pursuit of peace in the region and to the reduction of the risk of potentially catastrophic conflict,” continues the letter. In our view, the failure to consider even incremental relaxation of sanctions was a key factor in the collapse of recent efforts at political engagement for peace.”

The rigid maintenance of ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions has only served to poison the political environment for dialogue and reduction of tensions, notes the letter. A more flexible policy is needed to create new possibilities for constructive engagement,” the text reads. We believe that people-to-people encounters are essential for building peace.”

Policies that prevent such encounters can only entrench conflict and division, the letter concludes. Accordingly, we also urge you to bring to a permanent conclusion the travel ban that prevents US citizens from meeting and providing assistance to North Korean people in their country,” the text reads. We hope that these concerns can be taken into account in the current review of US sanctions policy mandated by your Administration.”

 

Read the full story here 

STATEMENT FOR INTERFAITH VIGIL WASHINGTON D.C. 20 JULY 2021

With its horrible human harvest, the COVID-19 pandemic has instilled fear, extreme anxiety, and confusion like no other natural calamity in recent history. The pandemic forcefully reminds us that we are one world, one humanity, and more interdependent than we imagined. It has also exposed the fault lines of global inequality in access to health care and other basic needs.

COVID-19 offers us an opportunity to stand together and press the reset, revision, and recalibrate button to work for a transformed world in which we commit to sharing resources, walking softly on the earth, and affirming dignity of all humanity. We note with gratitude the work of the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and other international organizations.

We commend the bold initiative by President Biden to remedy vaccine apartheid globally through the purchase and donation of half a billion vaccines to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union. We, however, note that more needs to be done, like the approval of the TRIPS waiver to remove the legal barriers to cooperation in generic manufacturing of Covid-19 medical products.

As we navigate unchartered waters, the World Methodist Council stands in solidarity with inter-faith leaders. We tap into the spiritual resources of all religions and people of goodwill to work towards a substantial structural and systemic change that will allow the poor greater access to healthcare.

Together we can do more and make a difference!

 

                                                                                                                                                          Ivan M Abrahams                                                                                                                                                                                  General Secretary

Organisations representing a half billon Christians worldwide urge G20 to fix a broken global tax system

In a letter to the G20 finance ministers before the International Tax Symposium on 9 July, organizations representing a half billion Christians worldwide urged that it has never been more urgent and necessary to fix our broken global tax system.

      Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

The World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, and Council for World Mission urged strong social protection measures in all countries to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are able to weather COVID-19s unprecedented health and economic consequences.

The pandemic has revealed once again the importance of peoples access to essential health care and basic income security throughout their lives,” reads the letter. To date rich countries have spent 35.6 percent of their GDPs on responding to the health emergency and supporting employment and businesses.”

In contrast, low-income countries were only able to expend a meagre 6 percent of their GDPs on fighting the pandemic and are even now struggling to meet the demands of protecting their citizens, the letter notes.

As the most sustainable source of revenue, tax systems have a pivotal role to play in bolstering social sector initiatives and financing the recovery from the crisis,” the letter continues. We acknowledge recent efforts by the international community at tax reform, not least the G7 proposal for a 15% global corporate minimum tax.”

The endemic injustices of global poverty, racial inequity, health inequality and climate change are rooted in the legacies of colonial exploitation and resource extraction, and call for systemic change, urges the letter. The pandemic shows us peoples lives and livelihoods are at stake, at a time when the life of the earth is also under threat, the letter reads. Not only is tax justice at the heart of any recovery plan, it is crucial for mitigating widening inequality and stepping up to the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate.”

Read the full letter

Archbishop joins Red Cross Red Crescent, UNHCR and global faith leaders in urgent call to end vaccine nationalism

Worldwide Christian and other faith leaders have joined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the International Committee of the Red Cross President and humanitarian groups urging global leaders to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world. 

On the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have said that global leaders must choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity”. 

In a joint Declaration co-signed on May 24 by international faith leaders and humanitarian groups, Archbishop Justin Welby and ICRC president Peter Maurer said that equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is a humanitarian imperative. 

The statement is signed by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The faith leaders include senior representatives from all the major Christian denominations, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and Azza Karam and Rabbi David Rosen of Religions for Peace. 

The Declaration, which calls for decisive leadership from countries and organizations across the world, states: “There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty. We are at a turning point.”

The catastrophic impacts of the pandemic, combined with existing issues of conflict, disaster and famine, mean that the world is facing the challenge of reversing “devastating dynamics”, the leaders say. 

“People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support. We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for COVID-19, but also for the many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.”  

The Declaration calls on world leaders to: 

  • Ensure equitable vaccine access both within and between countries by providing vaccines and funding as well as sharing knowledge and expertise.
  • Leave no one behind, including stigmatised and marginalised communities for whom access to healthcare is already a challenge.
  • Focus on the broader health picture for vulnerable populations – so that people aren’t protected from Covid only to die from Polio.

The full text of the Declaration and signatories can be found below. 

COVID 19 Treatment Centre in Aden, Yemen. (Picture: ICRC)

No-one is safe until everyone is safe – why we need a global response to COVID-19  

Equitable vaccine distribution is a humanitarian imperative 

There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty.  

We are at a turning point. COVID-19 has been a truly global crisis in which we all have shouldered a burden. In many cases this has caused us to reflect on those longer injustices that have perpetuated in parts of the world where the pandemic is yet another layer of misery, instability and unrest. These inequalities have been exposed and exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic, both between and within countries. The effects will be felt on a global scale for years to come.  

The impact of a catastrophe like the COVID-19 pandemic is measured in the tragedy of individual loss and death, as well as the national and global disruption to almost every part of life. No country in the world has been untouched.  

Variants of the virus, potentially more infectious and resistant to vaccines, will continue to threaten us if they are not controlled now.  

Those of us who have signed this declaration represent organizations with roots in communities across the world. We work closely with those affected by conflict, disaster and famine, and know the immense challenges they face – but also of their resilience even in the worst of situations.  

In 2021, the world economy is facing the worst downturn since 1945. For some countries this will sharply increase poverty and suffering. For others it means hunger and death. The fallout from the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come. There will be a continued economic impact, with all the human suffering that brings. A generation of children, especially girls, have left school and will not return. 

The world is facing the challenge of how to reverse these devastating dynamics with health being a key part of such a response.  We advocate here for ‘Health for All’, where each person’s life is valued, and every person’s right to healthcare is upheld. People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support.  

We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for COVID-19, but also for the many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.  

We have a choice: vaccine nationalism or human solidarity.  

Thanks to effective international action, several vaccines have been produced. The World Health Organisation, GAVI and CEPI are leading the COVAX initiative, which is currently the best effort we have to ensure that vaccines reach people around the world. However, COVAX is only intended to cover 20% of the global population– the most vulnerable in lower-income countries – by the end of 2021 and it is not yet clear if it will meet this target. Meanwhile studies show that if we focus only on vaccinating our own populations, the world risks global GDP losses of up to $9.2 trillion (with half of that cost being incurred by high income countries) this year alone.  

But it is not just a matter of money. In order to achieve wider global vaccination, complex logistical, infrastructure and scaling issues must be addressed. The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is focused on providing a means to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostic and treatment products. The ACT recognizes and aims to address the requirement for information sharing – whether about technology, intellectual property or manufacturing.  

However, more needs to be done. The sharing of information, the transfer of technology and the strengthening of manufacturing processes, to name a few, require the active involvement of States and the private sector. 

We therefore call on world leaders to: 

  1. Ensure equitable access to vaccines between countries by providing vaccines, sharing knowledge and expertise, and fully funding the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is working to provide equitable access to and implementation of COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.  
  2. Ensure equitable access to vaccines within countries by ensuring all sectors of the population are included in national distribution and vaccination programs, regardless of who they are or where they live, including stigmatized and marginalized communities for whom access to healthcare might not be straightforward. 
  3. Support countries financially, politically and technically to ensure that curbing COVID-19 is not a standalone goal, and instead is one important element of a broader health strategy, implemented alongside communities to bring longer-term improvements to people’s health and access to healthcare. We are committed, in our different institutions, to offering all the help we can to support actions by communities and authorities. 

It is time for decisive leadership. Countries and organizations across the world have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address global inequality and reverse some of the fallout from the past year. In doing so, they will bring hope not only for the poorest in the world, but for us all.   

Signatories: 

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury  

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross  

Bishop Ivan M Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council 

HE Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Ecumenical Patriarchate 

The Reverend Dr Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches 

Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General

Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 

The Reverend Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation 

Dr Azza Karam, Secretary-General, Religions for Peace  

Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies 

Rabbi David Rosen, Co-President, Religions for Peace 

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, The Grand Imam of al-Azhar 

HE Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Rome