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2018 Annual Report
Dedicated to Paul Hood, early traveling minister from New England to Cuban Friends.
Puente de Amigos works to deepen the spiritual relationship between New England Yearly Meeting and Cuba Yearly Meeting. What a blessing to report that our relationship is thriving!
A short chronological summary of our work this year:
August 2017 At Sessions last summer we delighted in the first-hand reports from members of the Inter-generational Trip that met with youth in Holguin and Vista Alegre and the Young Friend who lived and worshiped with Cuban Quakers for six months. Our intention to honor the request of young adult Friends in Cuba to send young Friends their way had born fruit. Our government policy, however, prevented two Cubans scheduled to attend NEYM from coming.
January 2018 At the Instituto Cubano Cuáquero de Paz (ICCP), Benigno Sanchez-Eppler gave an in-depth workshop on Robert Barclay at four different sites. This Quaker History series has been conceived, researched, and written by Susan Furry and Benigno Sanchez-Eppler. Benigno also started the field work of conserving Cuba Yearly Meeting’s archives by making digital images.
February 2018 An all-New England delegation attended Cuba Yearly Meeting Sessions in Gibara. Our Presiding Clerk Fritz Weiss was asked to give the closing keynote address. Because the U.S. government is not issuing visitor visas to Cubans at this time, Fritz Weiss is asking the Puente Committee to be diligent in its efforts to have New England Friends provide a prayerful and visible presence at Cuba Yearly Meeting.
The members of the delegation came from three monthly meetings and visited with their sister meetings in Havana and Puerto Padre. Despite construction material shortages, we learned that the conference center construction projects in Holguin, Puerto Padre, and La Habana continue on schedule. These are prime examples of the “social enterprise” projects encouraged initially by FWCC-Section of the Americas and supported when possible by Puente de Amigos. Conference center rental income covers other Cuban social outreach expenses.
The all-New England delegation continued the tradition of providing workshops giving opportunities for the Cubans and us to learn from one another. New England Friends offered introductory workshops in Jugar Llenos de Fe, the immigration crisis in the U.S., Quaker decision-making, the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), and forgiveness. ICCP has expressed interest in reviving their AVP training after learning that AVP International can provide facilitators.
Puente de Amigos continues to provide some technology assistance by bringing hardware requested by Cuba Yearly Meeting. This year a modem, printer, and ink cartridges were delivered.
April 2018 Cuban Quakers did not submit applications for U.S. visitor visas this year, knowing the U.S. Embassy in Havana had stopped interviewing candidates. Nevertheless, we have persisted in informing our congressmen of the situation and advocating for change. Vermont Senator Leahy and Massachusetts Representative McGovern continue to intervene on our behalf. Fritz Weiss met personally with Representative McGovern to make the case that our religious freedom has been violated.
Over the past two years the Cuban Government has loosened restrictions on internet communication, making it easier for sister meetings and individuals to communicate with each other. We are truly blessed by our connections with our Cuban sisters and brothers and their vibrant Spirit-filled expressions of faith.
As we said at the conclusion of last year’s report, our times demand that we preach and practice goodwill in the world. Puente de Amigos provides one way to do this. Please consider opening up new links of communication with your sister meetings and joining a Puente delegation to Cuba.
—Len & Mary Ann Cadwallader, co-clerks