Coronavirus/COVID-19 Resources for Congregations and Members

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

Office of Public Witness joins ecumenical partners advocating humanitarian aid in Middle East

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) has signed onto appeals to top U.S. officials, including President Donald J. Trump, to ease sanctions on Iran to help blunt the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Friday afternoon Action Alert, OPW urged Presbyterians to contact their congressional representatives about this issue.

“Iran has become an epicenter for the outbreak,” a letter, signed by 40 entities including the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries and United Methodist Church–General Board of Church and Society, says. “To help stem the continued spread of the virus inside Iran and beyond, we urge you to issue a time-bound suspension of those U.S. sanctions that make it harder for ordinary Iranians to secure basic goods and services to weather the crisis.

“Doing so would not just serve U.S. interests in helping contain the further spread of the virus, but would also be a powerful humanitarian gesture to the more than 80 million Iranians suffering under the pandemic.”

At this writing Friday, Iran ranks No. 6 in the world in terms of confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 32,332 and 2,378 deaths. The United States ranks first, with 86,105 confirmed cases and 1,314 deaths, at this writing. But at this point, the disease has struck a larger percentage of Iran’s population than it has in the U.S.

The letter acknowledges some steps the U.S. government has made to offer aid to Iran, some of which The Washington Post reports the Iranian government has rejected. But that same article notes the U.S. government is maintaining a “maximum pressure” policy toward Iran and other countries, including Venezuela, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The United States could do more to aid Iran, the letter says.

It concludes, “… we recommend suspending many of the sanctions imposed by your administration since May 2018 for a period of at least 120 days, including those sanctions affecting Iran’s financial and oil sectors and its civilian industries. Doing so would offer significant relief for the Iranian people at a critical time.”

The PC(USA) Capitol Hill office has also signed onto a letter organized by the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office calling for lifting sanctions in Iran, Syria and Gaza.

“We urge you to lift sanctions that negatively impact civilian populations and other restrictions that impair governments’ abilities to respond to the health crisis,” the letter says. “This includes financial sanctions that impact the ability of countries to import much-needed medical supplies and equipment.”

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

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