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Carmen's Letter To Orthodox Church Members
Monday, April 25, 2005   By: Juan Paxety

We've posted before on the Orthodox Church's planned trip to Cuba. Carmen, who first alerted us all to the story, has written a letter to church members and has graciously allowed us to publish it here:

Dear Brothers and Sisters.
My name is Carmen Cartaya-Elrod. I am an Orthodox Christian, and a Cuban American citizen. I am aware of the "newly installed"  Orthodox Church in Havana given by Fidel Castro (even though there was an existing church there founded by early Greek immigrants in the early 1900's) the need to spread the Gospel in Cuba, due to lack of religious freedom, the oppression and the moral and social depravation by Castro's communist regime. I support Christian Missions!!
Last Sunday I found a brochure in the outer narthex of my parish with information on a trip to Cuba sponsored by the OCMC,I felt curious and excited about this trip.
After reading the information, I was shocked and surprised that this trip has very little to do with Mission WORK and much to do with VACATIONING in Communist Cuba!!  I looked at the information on line....I was expecting to find at least one or several  pictures of the Orthodox Church in Cuba? Icons? mission information?...Instead, there were gorgeous pictures of beaches (where Cubans living in the Island are not allowed to swim!!) palm trees, luxury hotels, museums..more beaches...etc....Is this a true mission trip? or just plain tourism?
Immediately, I contacted the OCMC and asked why the had chosen a trip to Cuba...(by the way, I believe this is a fund raiser for the OCMC) I felt their response was arrogant and uncaring to the present situation of Cuba and the Cuban people.
Therefore, I felt compelled to contact the Cuban American Community in Miami, NY, and California...the US State Dept, newspapers, US Congress, and several other organizations that would conduct an investigation and will help seek support exposing the OCMC for misleading  the public and us the Orthodox Community also their supporters.
I am sure I don't need to tell you that travel to Cuba is ILLEGAL!! unless you are disguising it under the name of the church? Travel to Cuba is plain immoral!! thousands of Cuban people are treated inhumanely and subject to torture, barbaric mental and physical abuse.
Fidel Castro violates Human Rights as declared by the United Nation's Commission that voted on April 14, 2005 along with the European Union declaring Castro's one of the worst Human Rights Violators in the Western Hemisphere!!
OCMC's trip to Cuba is nothing more than an unwillingness to ignore Castro's totalitarian, communist, bloody regime by offering a "trip of a lifetime" to a communist country!! and giving Castro thousands of dollars, money that will not go to aid the Cuban people!
I challenge the OCMC to go to Cuba and experience the REAL life of its people!! Go visit the rats infested Hospitals!! the work camps!! the schools!! visit Castro's prisons!! where thousands of men and women are tortured and murdered where dissidents and prisoners of conscious are given unrealistic long sentences for  speaking out against Castro's regime!!
If OCMC is offering this (very expensive) trip to Cuba as an opportunity to raise funds for the mission center...why not choose another location?
How would moral, Christian people  feel if they were offered  to visit Hitler's beautiful mountain resorts ? (while Hitler was in Power murdering millions!!) or the Island of Cyprus? (the side occupied by the Turks) Sadam Hussein's palace? or Joseph Stalin's resorts in Russia back in the 1950's????
No matter how Fr Martin Ritsi tries to "justify" his reasoning for this trip (which he has tried to do) there is NO acceptable excuses to take people to Cuba and as the director of the OCMC allow the funds of the center to be spend in Castro's Island!! Fr Ritsi needs to be held accountable.
I am asking for an investigation on this trip. As members of SCOBA I am appealing to you as well to speak out and demand answers!! 
Please feel free to look at the following web site where the Cuban American Community has felt the need to expose this so called "trip of a lifetime" and where together we are actively seeking support against this trip and demanding an explanation!!  Look for the article titled "MISSION OMISSION" you might want to click on "HABLA" and read all the responses posted. another web site exposing OCMC is I am also enclosing the OCMC web site dedicated to this trip to Cuba.
Feel free to contact me through email or by phone. I am following this email with a formal letter as well.
Thank YOU for taking the time and for your cooperation on this matter,I pray you understand my situation and trust that my intentions are the most honorable and heart felt.
I don't mean to cause harm to anyone in the OCMC, I just feel this trip should have never been offered.
God Grant all of you a Blessed Pascha!!
Carmen Cartaya-Elrod


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