From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Cuba-bound computers freed

Date 29 May 1996 16:06:07

"UNITED METHODIST DAILY NEWS" by SUSAN PEEK on Aug. 11, 1991 at 13:58 Eastern,

Note 2978 by UMNS on May 29, 1996 at 15:21 Eastern (4076 characters).

SEARCH:   Cuba, computers, Fassett, Treasury, fasters

  UMNS stories may be accessed on the Internet World Wide Web at:
Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of
the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New
York, and Washington.

Contact:  Joretta Purdue                       264(10-30-71){2978}
          Washington, D.C.  (202) 546-8722            May 29, 1996

Freed computers in United Methodist hands;
94-day fast concludes with their release

     WASHINGTON (UMNS) -- After extensive negotiations with U.S.
Treasury officials, United Methodists took possession late May 24
of more than 300 computers bound for Cuba's medical system. As a
result, the 94-day "Fast for Life" was broken at midnight here.
     The donated computers had been seized at the U.S.-Mexico
border Feb. 17 from a caravan of volunteers assembled by Pastors
for Peace. 
     When government officials would not enter into discussions
with leaders of Pastors for Peace or its parent organization, the
International Foundation for Community Organization (IFCO),
several volunteers, led by IFCO's executive director the Rev.
Lucius Walker, began a hunger strike at the border on Feb. 21.
     He and three other fasters moved to Washington in early
April, where their tent was erected on the lawn of the United
Methodist Building.
     The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, general secretary of the
United Methodist Board of Church and Society, signed the final
agreement at 11 p.m. May 24.
     An hour later, as two United Methodist clergymen received the
computers in San Diego, Fassett led the fasters in a prayer
service in which they shared a rice gruel with friends and co-
workers at the United Methodist Building.
     The computers were accepted for the United Methodist Church
by the Revs. John Lurvey Jr. and James Jones, whose ministries are
in San Diego.
     The Board of Church and Society accepted title for the
computers on behalf of a consortium of religious associations that
includes the board, the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the
U.S.A. (NCC) and several denominations.
     Fassett and other United Methodists acted in accordance with
an April 26 action of General Conference, the church's highest
legislative body, urging the secretary of the Treasury to release
the shipment of medical computers and supplies for delivery to
Cuba, and asking President Clinton to enter into conversations
with Cuba.
     The computers will be distributed to Cuban clinics and
hospitals to support the United Nations' and Pan American Health
Organization's INFOMED network, a medical information network.
     "We are optimistic that this medical aid will soon be
exported for humanitarian use in Cuba," Fassett said. 
     The people who were fasting are gradually increasing their
intake of soft foods and plan to accompany the computers across
the border as well as visit in cities where others had joined them
in fasting and in other efforts in support of this issue.
     Walker said, "The release of these computers was made
possible by the active support of hundreds of thousands of people
of conscience in all parts of the United States and the world."
     Breaking their fast at the end of the 94th day were Walker,
Jim Clifford and Lisa Valanti.
     Through a clerical omission, 35 computers seized in Vermont
remained in custody, but their release is expected soon.
     Fassett pointed out that negotiations with the Treasury
Department will continue. He said the issue of license-ability
will be paramount in the discussion of issues that must be
resolved before the computers can actually cross the border on
their way to Cuba.
     Twenty-three computers donated by Canadians are being stored
in Mexico after being released to United Methodist Bishop Roy Sano
a week before the current release. Bryan Rohatyn, a Canadian,
broke his fast then.
                               # # #


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