Thursday, August 8, 2019

Statement in Solidarity with Puerto Rico

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”  

-Isaiah 58: 6-7, NIV

On Friday, August 2nd, Ricardo Rosselló officially resigned as Puerto Rico’s governor amid fifteen days of mass protests. The protests began after el Centro de Periodismo Investigativo released nearly 900 pages of derogatory, crude, and vulgar messages sent by Rosselló and his “hermanos”, current and former members of his cabinet, through the messaging app Telegram. As well as generating some of the objectionable portions of the chat, Rosselló tolerated his “hermanos” expressions without comment to the contrary.

Members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Office of Public Witness strongly condemn any rhetoric, anywhere, that is used to support the systematic oppression of people and build communities of hate and intolerance, especially when it comes from officials in positions of political power and influence. We applaud the role that people of faith played, especially the Presbyterians who spoke out demanding new political leadership that is decent, competent and visionary. As thousands demanded the governor’s resignation, the voices of Presbyterians were present. Individual Presbyterian church leaders, as well as Puerto Rico’s three presbyteries and synod, took action against Rosselló’s administration by releasing public statements decrying the governor’s corruption and hateful speech. Presbyterians took to the streets demanding justice and participated in Puerto Rico’s largest demonstration in recent history.

Eric LeCompte wrote in The National Catholic Reporter (July 27) that “since 2015, my greatest and professional privilege has been working with faith leaders in Puerto Rico who call for an economy that serves all of the island’s people […] Our interfaith Jubilee USA coalition, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Jewish leaders, Catholic Charities, and the Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and United Church of Christ churches walked with Puerto Rico's religious leaders […] There is much more to be done, but much of what was achieved is because of the leadership of several of the island's religious leaders.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stands in solidarity with Presbyterians in Puerto Rico as they move forward. We pray that the new administration will establish a government that is transparent and honest, works towards the elimination of Puerto Rico’s debt, and assists individuals still struggling to recover from the massive destruction of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is “called to raise a prophetic voice against the systematic economic genocide, oppression, and colonialism of the U.S. Government against Puerto Rico and its residents.” Puerto Rico has been oppressed for more than 120 years under a textbook example of modern colonialism oppression directed by the U.S. Government. We, as faithful servants of the Lord, are called to stop such oppression. We pray that the United States federal government will end the unjustified tax burden imposed on Puerto Rico, repeal the provisions of the Jones Act that limit Puerto Rico’s imports and have hindered Puerto Rico’s recovery from the 2017 hurricanes, and treat all Puerto Ricans fairly as citizens of the United States, rather than as second-class citizens.

God has blessed the Church to be a guiding force and source of strength for the Puerto Rican community. It is our prayer that nuestros hermanos y hermanas puertorriqueños will remain strong and will not be discouraged in their fight for justice, and to know that we stand with them!

In the Faith We Share,

En la Fe que Compartimos,

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins