Broadening Perspective

Linda WLiving as Anabaptists

Last year, during my first Cuba trip, our tour guides (both atheists) explained that in Cuba religious observance is not important. Superstitions exist, talismans including crosses are worn to ward off bad events, but there is not much evidence of active faith. Expert lecturers explained the influence of Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean syncretic religion, but again Christian faith was barely mentioned. Also, all but one of the churches we looked into were in serious disrepair.

I have just returned from Cuba a second time. Our tour was led by Jack and Irene Suderman, who have a long history with Cuba – and with the Cuban Christian church!

As part of this experience our tour group worshipped with two combined congregations in a house church (and yard!) an hour outside Havana. We visited and met with the leaders of the Martin Luther King Center, the Christian Council of Churches in Cuba (both in Havana), and the Christian Center for Reflection and Dialogue (in Cardenas). Those meetings were highly informative and inspiring; also, we could see that those organizations are doing outstanding work with very few resources.

The MLK Center works through two “networks”, pastoral education and community engagement, to spark local action and self-help for vulnerable groups. The CCRD is more focused on project outcomes in a rural setting. There is a third Christian center in southeastern Cuba that we did not see. One important aspect of the Christian Council is that it serves as official umbrella and resource support for small Christian groups that would otherwise be “unregistered” and therefore illegal.

We asked, and they gave us some key messages to the North American Churches:

  1. “Know that God is in Cuba, too.
  2. “Be a prophet in your own land. Spread the message of God’s love for all and peace to all.
  3. “Organize to send your young people to come here for meet-ups with our young people. We have much to share and learn together and we would all be blessed.”

I’m glad I went to Cuba a second time, and with a different focus. Sight seeing was less; informed dialogue with Cubans, historic and economic exploration was more important. And it’s good to know that the Cuban church is alive, and fragile but well.