Friday, August 19, 2005

Latest news from the Pastors for Peace team on the road


PASTORS FOR PEACE UPDATE AND ACTION ALERT: WE'RE HEADED TO WASHINGTON!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACTS:    IFCO/PASTORS FOR PEACE
IN THE ROAD: FR. LUIS BARRIOS: 646/319-5902 (cellular)
IN NEW YORK: Lucia Bruno 212/926-5757 (office)

Greetings from Dallas, Texas!

Since we headed north from Hidalgo, we have visited Corpus Christi
(where we had three TV interviews), San Antonio (more TV and print
interviews), and Austin, where we had a wonderful hospitality from a
gracious member of our network and did radio interviews for KOOP
community radio.

Over this past weekend, we paid an extended visit to Crawford, Texas,
where George W. Bush has his ranch.  We spent a long time making the
decision to go to Crawford.  August is not the best month to be doing
outreach to Washington, because Congress is in recess and most elected
officials tend to be in their home offices or on vacation.  But the
national media is always present at the "summer White House" in
Crawford; and we wanted to bring national attention to our cause.  So
we decided that we would head north toward Crawford, as one of the
first stops on our way to Washington, as part of a longer tour to
raise awareness about our campaign.

One week ago last Sunday, on the night that we had made the decision
to go to Crawford, we learned that Cindy Sheehan had just set up her
anti-war vigil there.  This did not change the purpose of our visit,
but it added a new component.  We clearly wanted to give support to
the urgent campaign to end the war in Iraq, bring the troops home, and
bring peace to the Iraqi people, which at the moment Cindy and her
late son Casey are symbolizing.  We also wanted to draw the
connections with the Cuba issues that are at the center of our
campaign.  As you know, we are not only working for the release of the
seized computer aid, and the right to take all our aid to Cuba.  We
are also doing everything we can to bring attention to the Bush
administration's stepped-up efforts to crush Cuba.  We are talking
about the appointment of a US "administrator" (a la Paul Bremer) for
Cuba's supposed transition to a market economy that can be controlled
by the US.  We are sounding the alert about the always-imminent threat
of a US attack or invasion of Cuba.  We want to prevent Cuba from
being one of Bush's next targets.  As we see it, these issues are all
part of the same Bush agenda of domination and imperialism.

We were pleased to make a key contribution to the Sunday morning
ecumenical service at the "Camp Casey" site where 500 crosses are set
in the ground to represent the more than 1800 US soldiers killed in
Iraq.  Revs. Lucius Walker, Luis Barrios, and Diane Baker all took
leadership in the worship service, which was attended by 100 people
and covered by the national media.

We also took part in a fellowship luncheon that reminded us of
Pentecost because of its diversity. Brothers and sisters from Iraq,
who now live in Texas, prepared a delicious lunch of typical Iraqi
foods, which was shared with families of US troops, and veterans, and
clergy, and other supporters.

We want to acknowledge the wonderful work of the Crawford Peace House,
which hosted our caravan on our way to Cuba, and which now has been
the anchor for the ongoing campaign around Cindy Sheehan.

We were pleased and honored to have our yellow schoolbus parked over
the weekend at the Crawford Peace House and Camp Casey.  Many, many
people at the vigil – and many journalists -- came to talk with us
when they saw the bus, and asked about our campaign.  We were
delighted that people were so receptive and so welcoming to us.
Looking at what is going on now in Crawford, we could feel the spirit
of a new movement emerging.  We were glad to have the chance to
express our emotional, social, political and spiritual support, and
also to educate people about the interconnections with other issues we
care about.

Now we are in Dallas, networking with local churches and peace and
justice networks, and doing media outreach.  Last night we held a
6:30pm vigil in front of Dallas City Hall, along with representatives
of the Dallas Peace Center, Pax Christi, and the homeless veteran
population.  Then we had the honor of receiving a two-hour visit from
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), former chair of the Congressional
Black Caucus.  Rep. Johnson has visited Cuba twice, and pledged to
increase her advocacy for the release of the computers for Cuba.

Our plan from here?  WE ARE HEADING TO WASHINGTON!  Along the way we
will be visiting more cities in our network, to gather up support for
our campaign.  We want to meet with local Pastors for Peace
committees.  We also want to do a concerted push for media attention.
And we REALLY need your help with fundraising.

We are planning a visit to Beaumont, Texas, where Ramon Labañino, one
of the five Cubans unjustly imprisoned for defending Cuba against
terrorism, remains in prison.  We are celebrating the fact that the
Atlanta appeals court just overturned the convictions of the Five.  We
visited the Beaumont prison with the bus dedicated to Ramon when our
caravan was on its way south to Cuba.  Now we want to visit again to
draw more attention to the injustice of the long imprisonment of the
Five, and the urgency of bringing the self-confessed terrorist Luis
Posada Carriles to justice.

Over these next few days, there is another important event to report
and to celebrate.  On Wednesday, fifteen new students will be joining
the student body of the Latin American School of Medicine.  Lucius and
Ellen will be with the students to accompany them – and we will have
the honor of being present for the first graduation of the Latin
American School of Medicine.  One of the 1500 new doctors in the
graduating class is from the US – Cedric Edwards from Slidell, LA.
Cedric will be headed home to prepare his application for a residency
in a US hospital.  We will be so proud to attend the graduation
ceremony; and we will also use the time in Cuba to spread the word
about our campaign to free the computers.

While that visit is going on, the Pastors for Peace team will continue
on the road!  Fr. Luis Barrios and Bill Hill will be traveling through
Texas, working alongside our supporters from Houston, Texas; Beaumont,
Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia, to get the word out to the media and
build support for the campaign to free the computers.  We are
expecting that this coming Sunday all of us (Lucius, Ellen, Bill &
Luis) will be back together in Atlanta; we expect to hold a big
educational event that will include the celebration of the overturning
of the convictions of the Five Cubans.

THEN:  WE HEAD FOR WASHINGTON!  Like we did in 1996, we plan to get
right in the faces of the people who make policy decisions.  We will
be spreading the word, not just about the need to release the
computers, but about the need to end the blockade.


SO WHAT DO WE NEED YOU TO DO (AND DO AGAIN!)?
Hold vigils!  Four weeks ago, we started holding Wednesday prayer
vigils on the Hidalgo/Reynosa International Bridge.  The effort
quickly grew; last week there were 20 vigils for the release of the
computers held around the US.  Today we learned that Wednesday vigils
will also be held in support of Cindy Sheehan's vigil to end the war
in Iraq.

We will continue organizing vigils every Wednesday.  We will
incorporate the issue of peace in Iraq, and bringing the US troops
home, in our weekly vigils; and we are requesting that other
organizers include the issue of peace with Cuba, and freeing the
seized humanitarian aid, in new vigils that are being organized.

Get signatures for the pastoral letter and the Cuban American letter.
Our website, www.pastorsforpeace.org , has the link to Petitions On
Line.

Keep making calls to Commerce, Customs, State, and Congress.
Jayson Ahern, Assistant Commissioner of Customs: 202/344-1620
Cuba Desk, State Department: 202/647/9273
Michael Turner, Director of Export Enforcement, Commerce Department:
202/482-1208,ext. 3
Visit your senators' and representative's offices during the August
recess.  Show them how much you care about US/Cuba policy!

Help us raise funds to keep this campaign on the road to Washington!
Send your tax-deductible donation to IFCO/Pastors for Peace, 402 W.
145th Street, New York, NY 10031.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTINUING SUPPORT!  This is an issue that we
can win!

"Una religión que te dice que sólo hay que mirar hacia arriba y que en
la vida terrenal todo es bajeza y ruindad que no debe ser mirado con
atención es la mejor garantía para que tropieces a cada paso y te
rompas los dientes y el alma contra las piedras rotundamente
terrenales".  Roque Dalton

"A religion that tells you there's only pie in the sky and all earthly
life is lousy and vicious and that you shouldn't be too concerned is
the best guarantee you'll stumble at every step and break your teeth
and soul against absolutely earthly rocks."  Roque Dalton

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