The United Church of Christ has received the following letter from Carlos Alberto Torres, a Puerto Rican nationalist who was convicted of sedition and was released from federal prison in July 2010 after 30 years. The UCC has steadfastly supported Carlos and other political prisoners throughout the world, passing resolutions through the General Synods of 1979, 1985, and 1989 to call for their release and an end to discriminator treatment of prisoners of conscience.
We continue to answer the call for active ministry for all those who are arrested and imprisoned for acts based on their beliefs, or because of their fundamental concern for social justice and human rights.
June 6, 2011
Dear members of the United Church of Christ:
It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I express my appreciation and thanks to the United Church of Christ for its spirit of generosity and human solidarity in its support of my release from prison and that of the Puerto Rican political prisoners.
On July 26, 2010, I was released from federal prison after serving 30 years. I was charged with seditious conspiracy for my involvement in the independence movement of Puerto Rico. Throughout my incarceration I was supported unfailingly by my family, friends, the Puerto Rican community in the United States, the people of Puerto Rico and many fine people in the U.S. and abroad. Always firm in their support of me and all the political prisoners, were my lifelong friends and members of the First Congregational Church of Chicago. Resolute in its support of the Puerto Rican political prisoners has been the United Church of Christ.
My family’s connection with the UCC has a long history. My father, the Reverend Jose A. Torres began serving as the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Chicago in 1961. In 1959, before coming to Chicago, he was the Co-Pastor of the Martha Memorial Church in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in New York City. Prior to coming to the United States, after graduating from seminary, my father was the pastor of the Primera Iglesia Evangelical de Cristo in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. In the historic tradition of the UCC, my father’s pastoral mission encompassed the teachings of Christ and a profound commitment to social justice and equality. These values were passed on to me through his examples of lifelong ministering and activism. His values of love and compassion were also shared by his wife, my stepmother, Alejandrina Torres. Alejandrina, an ex- Puerto Rican political prisoner, served 16 years in federal prison charged also with seditious conspiracy for her role in the Puerto Rican independence movement. The moral support in solidarity that we both received from the UCC was especially important to us during our long incarceration. It seemed fitting to us that the UCC’s generous spirit of solidarity was present even when others hesitated to offer that support.
I can recall the tumultuous years of the American civil rights movement, a time when the church played a pivotal role in creating social justice in this country. My father, as president of the Hispanic ministers in Chicago put his commitment to justice into practice when he marched along side Dr. King in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama. My father once told me that Christ marched with them also in Selma and in Birmingham. That spirit of core Christian values in the struggle for freedom and justice was ever present in our home.
Many years later while
in prison, I had cause to remember and reflect on my father and step-mother’s
experiences: their strength and commitment to justice under very adverse
conditions. Their example filled me with hope and perseverance. The support
expressed to us by the church added a depth of relevance and understanding to
our suffering. It is difficult if not impossible to separate the role of the
church in garnishing our release after many years of struggle. Today, I can enjoy the taste of freedom, but
the work is not yet complete. While other Puerto Rican political prisoners
still languish in prison after decades of incarceration, the role of the church
as champions of justice is as always invaluable.
Once again we must call on you to reaffirm your support in solidarity in the struggle for freedom and justice. Once again we turn to you for your moral guidance and charity in reaffirming your call for the release of all the Puerto Rican political prisoners.
It is with sincere humility that I ask the UCC to extend a hand of Christian fellowship, love and support for Oscar López Rivera, who has already served 30 years in prison, Avelino González Claudio and Norberto González Claudio, the Puerto Rican political prisoners.
Carlos Alberto Torres