Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Boycott (of Travel to United States) Hot Media Story: Talk-Show Host Throws Sand in Interview

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Church Boycott (of Travel to United States) Hot Media Story: Talk-Show Host Throws Sand in Interview

Article excerpt


A suggested boycott of travel to the United States in favour of tourist destinations in Cuba, Canada and the Caribbean, has raised the ire of some Canadians and caught fire with others.

National and international media have contacted Anglican church officials in recent weeks to ask about the rationale of the boycott. Public reaction has been mixed.

The Council of General Synod voted in November to encourage Anglicans to consider vacationing outside the U.S.

The resolution originated with the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund. It joined other churches, non-governmental organizations and unions in calling for a boycott of Florida to protest the Helms-Burton law. The law reinforces the 30-year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba and penalizes corporations and their staff from other countries doing business in both Cuba and the U.S.

(The Primate's Fund department is involved in a specific boycott of Florida. The council asked that "Canadian Anglicans consider" boycotting the entire U.S.)

Archbishop Michael Peers believes it is the novelty - "the idea of boycotting the U.S.!" - which is drawing attention. He has spoken with the British Broadcasting Corporation and Vision TV. A Toronto radio talk-show interviewed Ellie Johnson, director of Partnerships, taking calls from the public afterwards. The story also ran in several newspapers across the country.

The BBC interviewer asked the question on many people's mind, said the Primate: "Isn't that a political statement?" Archbishop Peers agreed that it was and added he had participated in boycotts before, such as South African products before apartheid ended.

The Primate also pointed out that Pope John Paul II expressed his desire to see the end of the American blockade when he met recently with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

"That, too, is a political statement," said the Primate, who has some church responsibilities for Cuba, as president of the metropolitical (bishops) council of Cuba. (Cuba was part of the U.S. Episcopal Church until the 1960s, when the political situation became too tense.)

The Toronto radio show host prodded Dr. Johnson with questions like: "When did this become an Anglican issue? ... What the heck does it have to do with Anglican-ism? ... Isn't it a stretch to turn this political football into a religious issue? ... What is it about Cuba that you would want the average Anglican to embrace? Is it their politics?"

Callers were split. "I'm absolutely steaming," said one man. Another argued for "a separation of church and state" and criticized the church for promoting "a communist country" as a place to visit. …

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