From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Plan to Visit Vieques March 22-25

From news@ELCA.ORG
Date 13 Feb 2001 14:35:46


February 9, 2001


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will head a
delegation of church leaders and staff to Puerto Rico, in response to an
invitation of ELCA members there concerned about the live ammunition and
bombing practices of the U.S. Navy on Vieques, an island eight miles
east of Puerto Rico.  The delegation will visit Puerto Rico March 22-24.
     "The people of Puerto Rico have expressed overwhelmingly their
desire for the U.S. Navy to cease operations on Vieques," said Anderson
in a letter to the 5.15 million-member ELCA.  "The use of the island [by
U.S. military personnel] has depressed the local economy, damaged the
environment and affected the health of the people of Vieques," he said.
     An objective of the delegation's visit to Puerto Rico is to
support members of the ELCA Caribbean Synod and "listen to the cry of
people on Puerto Rico and their families living on Vieques," said the
Rev. Gregory J. Villalon, director for ethnic leadership development,
ELCA Division for Ministry, and former bishop of the ELCA Caribbean
Synod.  Villalon is a member of the delegation.
     Another objective of the delegation is to demonstrate the church's
solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico and Vieques, according to
Villalon.  "They are not alone in their struggle.  The church is
listening, advocating, working and praying for a just solution by
intensifying its efforts to meet with all people," he said.
     The delegation plans to visit Vieques on March 23.  They will meet
with the island's government officials, residents, clergy and lay
members of the ELCA.
     Villalon said the ELCA Caribbean Synod has been very active in
participating with other Christian denominations in supporting a fair
and just solution "to the complicated problem" on Vieques.
     "We seek a solution that will be fair to the people and not
jeopardize the security of the United States," he said.
     In 1999, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a resolution that
called on the U.S. government "to seek reasonable solutions" that will
end all U.S. military operations on Vieques.  The resolution asked that
the land be returned to the people of the island "while not compromising
our nation's security."
     The assembly asked the ELCA Division for Church in Society,
through the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs (LOGA), to
"encourage the U.S. government to seek reasonable solutions."  LOGA is
the ELCA's federal public policy advocacy office in Washington, D.C.
     In a statement issued May 11, 2000, members of the Caribbean Synod
said, "Our plea to ... the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is to
pray and witness to the gospel with us.  We need the ELCA, motivated by
a sense of compassionate solidarity, to take sides with the oppressed
people of Vieques and leap into this struggle with us, firmly and
positively, pro justice and human rights."
     The ELCA Caribbean Synod, with offices in Dorado, Puerto Rico, is
made up of 6,783 Lutherans in 26 congregations.
     The Rev. Francisco L. Sosa, bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod,
met with Anderson and more than 20 Spanish-speaking leaders and staff of
the churchwide organization here Oct. 5.  The group worked to determine
ways in which the church can continue its effort to bring an end to U.S.
military training on Vieques.  During the meeting, Sosa invited Anderson
and others to visit Vieques in Spring 2001.
     Leaders who plan to travel with Anderson and Villalon are the Rev.
Donald J. McCoid, bishop for the ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod,
Pittsburgh, and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops; the Rev.
Russell O. Siler, director for LOGA; Evelyn B. Soto, director for
multicultural resource production, ELCA Division for Congregational
Ministries; the Rev. Eric C. Shafer, director, ELCA Department for
Communication; and Melissa O. Ramirez, associate director for news,
Department for Communication.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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