To the members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ:
Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. Jeremiah 31:15 (NRSV)
In September 2019, the General Ministers and Presidents for the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Co-Executives for Global Ministries, and the Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean visited with partners in Venezuela. The objectives of the pilgrimage were accompaniment with the churches, meeting with leaders to learn about the challenges facing the country and strengthening the strategic cooperation necessary to realize a different set of outcomes beyond the current reality and challenges being experienced by the Venezuelan people.
Our visit with leaders was highly information and motivated us to continue to walk in solidarity with these partners. We heard from governmental, civil society and community leaders who shared their stories of the ways in which the economic blockade is affecting the country and is even rolling back the significant accomplishments in addressing health disparities and the economic viability of the country. The narratives were consistent: the economic embargo is affecting marginalized communities in adverse ways. Most affected are the women, children, the disabled, the poor and the elderly. These are the communities experiencing lack of food and medicines. The voices we heard were indeed crying, weeping for the children and the communities that are no more, telling stories of a past while longing and visioning for a better future.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. Isaiah 9:2
The Advent season is a time of holy expectation. The season bids us to expect the unexpected, to believe that the miracles made present among us in the presence of the Christ-child are still possible. We are invited to believe in God who can make all things new, God who can make the impossible possible among. As we move through these weeks of Advent and beyond, we are aware that the Light of the world has come, bringing the promise of a new day.
While we weep for those who are deeply wounded, we also continue to stand in solidarity with the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela with whom we have engaged in a relationship of solidarity for over 60 years. In doing so, we call for an end to the economic embargo imposed by the United States government believing that this can be made possible. We called for an end to the embargo in Venezuela noting that it “has historically caused and continues to cause serious difficulties… and has resulted in suffering for Venezuelan citizens especially women and children.” We want to ensure that the people of Venezuela are able to have access to the avenues of commerce allowing them the ability to trade and to purchase much needed materials, medicine, food and other goods necessary for their survival.
Along with our partners in Venezuela we affirm the right of self-determination for the people of Venezuela. Their right to self-determination means that the political choices that they make should be respected by all countries. Therefore, we oppose any military intervention in Venezuela. Such action would defy the right to self-determination and worsen the effects of the economic blockade, even destroying infrastructure and the livelihood of Venezuelan citizens.
“To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Nelson Mandela
The economic embargo leveled against Venezuela is adversely affecting the lives of its citizens already living in marginalized communities. Our concerns for the people of Venezuela are based on our visit, the experiences that we heard, and the stories of oppression that were shared with us. Our commitment as leaders is to empower our congregations to be better informed and stronger advocates for justice.
Therefore, we call on our denominations to:
- Pray for the people of Venezuela and for our partners in the Evangelical Pentecostal Union of Venezuela
- Advocate to the US government for an immediate end to the economic blockade
- Advocate for the right of the Venezuelan people to be self-determining
- Advocate for avoiding any military intervention in Venezuela
- Learn more about the situation in Venezuela and increase the awareness of those around you
- Join the voices of the global community advocating for an end to the US embargo and economic sanctions imposed by the European Union, Canada and other countries
- Support Global Ministries staff and leadership as the work for justice and peace continues
Creator God, you are ever present with us. You continue to create in us and through us in ways that are beyond our imagination. You called us to be salt and light. During this season of Advent, we put before you your children in Venezuela, formed and fashioned in your image.
We ask Holy One that you provide for our neighbors in Venezuela through these challenging times. We pray that the economic sanctions will be lifted affording these – your children – the opportunity to live in peace with full rights and dignity to self-determination. Help us to be present on their behalf, speaking their truth as shared with us and asking for justice and peace for all people everywhere. Amen.