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PC(USA) Washington office asks Trump to ease sanctions to combat COVID-19

Office of Public Witness joins nearly 70 organizations saying sanctions relief is vital to stop pandemic

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

The official White House portrait of President Donald J. Trump was taken by Shealah Craighead on October 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness is one of 69 civil society organizations that have signed a letter to U.S. President Donald J. Trump calling for broad sanctions relief in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We write to you out of deep concern for the health and well-being of ordinary people in Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and other heavily-sanctioned locations,” the letter, copied to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, opens. “We also seek relief for people in Gaza, the West Bank, Yemen, and other countries being sanctioned by U.S. security partners and where U.S. laws and policies sanction non-state groups that control territory or political structures.”

In addition to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the letter is also signed by faith-based organizations such as Church World Service, the National Council of Churches, the American Friends Service Committee, the United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society, Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office, Pax Christi International and Pax Christi USA.

The letter said that the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the precarious position of many of these countries and territories and that without immediate aid they can face severe economic hardship, infection, and death. It quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres calling, “for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.”

The bulk of the letter is a three-point list of requests:

  1. Issue emergency universal exemptions for humanitarian goods.
  2. Implement reporting protocols that monitor the impact and human cost of sanctions.
  3. Suspend broad-based and sectoral sanctions that cause significant economic damage and leave populations more exposed to sickness and disease, food insecurity and other humanitarian emergencies.


“The urgent appeals listed above are based on a commitment to save human lives and build global environments of cooperation,” the letter says. “The collective decades of research and on-the-ground experience of signatories to this letter have led us to the conclusion that broad, unilateral sanctions are harming ordinary civilians and inhibiting effective international cooperation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.”

An Office of Public Witness statement says the signatories represent 40 million supporters around the world. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Public Witness has signed onto or led calls for the lifting of sanctions against specific countries, as well as calls for voting rights, workers’ rights and economic relief.

The Office of Public Witness is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Read more

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Compassion, Peace & Justice Training Day goes online

PC(USA) Washington Office calls for domestic, international COVID-19 advocacy

PC(USA) Washington office calls for easing Iran sanctions to combat COVID-19


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