Saturday, July 28, 2007

Pastors for Peace Returns from Cuba Travel Challenge!

Press Advisory July 28, 2007
Contact: Ellen Bernstein (646) 319-5902
Lucia Bruno (347) 423-4330

Pastors for Peace Returns Victorious from Cuba Travel Challenge

Attended Graduation of US Medical Students and Delivered 90 Tons of Aid

Our faith calls us to resist any law preventing us from our biblical mandate to love our neighbor.

More than 100 exhilarated members of Pastors for Peace returned to the US after spending eight days in Cuba, where they delivered 90 tons of humanitarian aid and attended the graduation of eight US students who completed medical school on full scholarship at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana.

According to Rev. Lucius Walker, executive director of IFCO/Pastors for Peace, the group re-entered the US via Hidalgo,Texas on Saturday morning July 28, not knowing if they would face an increased level of harassment at the border. In previous years, federal agents have tried to intimidate the Caravan with threats of prosecution and seizure of humanitarian aid.

"Border agents spent a considerable amount of time searching luggage and questioning Caravan members." said Walker. "We were able to regain possession of the aid that was detained on our way into Mexico. However, we have not forgotten the situation in Maine where border officials seem to have an axe to grind over the issue of Cuba. Why else would they detain stethoscopes, a hospital breast milk pump and other medical aid bound for Cuba?"

The highlight of the Caravan's eight day stay in Cuba, was the graduation of the first class of US medical students at the Latin American School of Medicine in Havana. IFCO is the administrator of the scholarship program for US students. For more information about the program call the contacts listed above and see our website: .

"The medical school graduation was a tremendously powerful experience. These young doctors are remarkable" said Rev. Thomas Smith of Pittsburgh. "They are committed to returning to medically underserved communities in the US where they are needed most. They will care for those who desperately need them with solid medical training and a deep sense of compassion," said Rev. Smith, who serves as board president of IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

More than 40 percent of the 18th Friendshipment Caravan was comprised of young people. During their stay in Cuba, they had many opportunities to meet with Cuban youth. The entire Caravan visited schools, senior centers and hospitals where they learned about the Cuban health care system.

Rev. Diane Baker of Houston noted "Our caravans are like water dropping onto a rock. The rock may seem impenetrable, but we just keep on keeping on -- because the water always wins."

Last year, more than 100 participants of the Pastors for Peace caravan received letters from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), threatening them with fines for traveling to Cuba. "We don't know what will await us this time," said IFCO board member Rev. Luis Barrios, "but we refuse to be intimidated from fulfilling our mission of humanitarian aid and fellowship."

Pastors for Peace is a project of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO), a national ecumenical agency which has been working for social justice since 1967.

Photos and more information are available at . For the most up-to-date news about the Caravan go to our blog at:



At July 30, 2007 at 4:40 PM , Blogger Mambi_Watch said...

Congratulations! Very inspiring work.

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