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Saturday, October 22, 2016
Cuban churches offers help to America
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 As America continues to struggle in its efforts to respond to the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, offers of help from around the world have been pouring in - not just from the UN and the European Union - but from countries named in the past by President Bush as part of an 'axis of evil', including Venezuela, Iran and Cuba. Churches in Cuba offered help soon after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast states. On Thursday the country's national assembly held a minute's silence for Katrina victims while prayers were said in churches across the island. President Castro also offered to send 1,100 doctors to Houston, Texas, together with 26 tonnes of medical equipment. As yet, the US government has not responded. Christian leaders in the US, last year condemned President Bush for his 'axis of evil' language, declaring that "such crude distinctions, especially when sed by Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy, in which the world is divided into forces of absolute good and absolute evil." Over the weekend, Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and an official of the National Lawyers Guild, praised the way impoverished Cuba handled Hurricane Ivan last September. She said that although Hurricane Ivan destroyed 20,000 homes, only a handful of people died, because 1.5 million Cubans had been evacuated to higher ground ahead of the storm. There had been a well ordered defence plan, coordinated leadership, no curfew, no looting and no violence. "Merely sticking people in a stadium is unthinkable", said Latin America expert Dr Nelson Valdes. "Shelters all have medical personnel... They have family doctors in Cuba, who evacuate together with the neighbourhood, and already know, for example, who needs insulin." Relations between church and state in Cuba appear to have improved in recent years. They were very strained until the mid-1990s. After the revolution in 1959 hundreds of priests and nuns were imprisoned and deported and many church properties were seized by the state. In 1998, Pope John Paul II visited Cuba and was received warmly by President Fidel Castro, who changed his trademark fatigues to a business suit for the occasion. He was also present at a Mass celebrated by the Pope in Havana's Plaza de la Revolution. One month before the Pope's visit, Christmas was restored as a national holiday and the church appears to be experiencing greater freedom since that time. In 2003 Castro attended the blessing of a Catholic convent - an event which was widely reported in the Cuban media. At the beginning of August this year, a World Council of Churches delegation met with the Rev Rhode Gonzalez, President of the Cuban Council of Churches, the Catholic Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and with other leaders from the Cuban churches. Source: Ekklesia/ICN
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