NEW YORK - After watching Hurricane Gustav tear through Cuba and hearing reports on Hurricane Ike's approach, many people are asking why the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) based here is not raising funds to assist with storm relief there.
The reason arises from the foreign policy of the United States government.
UMCOR and most other church-related humanitarian organizations based in the United States are prohibited by federal law from transferring to Cuba the funds that could assist survivors of disasters.
In 2006, the federal government failed to renew the license of the General Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent agency, to send funds into Cuba for ministries of various kinds. Many other denominations have also lost their licenses.
Methodists in Cuba have responded to the damage done by hurricanes, although they are severely limited in their financial capacity. Reports on this work of the Methodist Church of Cuba can be found in Spanish and English on the church's Web site at http://imecu.org/index.php.
The U.S. Government allows only "churches" to have the right to travel to Cuba as volunteer teams in the name of religious work. It restricts the term "church" to mean only individual congregations. Cuba limits the number of such teams that are admitted each year.
The United Methodist Church, by action of its legislating body, the General Conference, opposes both the U.S. boycott of Cuba and restrictions that Cuba puts on freedom of expression among its people. This summer a work team from Meridian Street UMC in Indianapolis went to Cuba to assist in building projects. - UMCO