Cuba

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PRAYER ITEMS:
  • Ask God to provide wisdom to Cuba’s church leaders, specifically requesting that they will exemplify grace toward all governmental authorities while remaining bold in their presentation of the Gospel.
  • Pray for the salvation of the current Cuban president as well as those who work under his leadership.
  • Pray that the believers in Cuba will not fear government reprisal but will stand firm in their faith and live in unconditional surrender to the Lordship of Christ.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE NATION:

Cuba is generally a poor county and military service is mandatory for all men.

Although religious activities are met with less opposition in comparison to the previous times, Communist rule, as instituted under Fidel Castro’s leadership continues to impose restrictions on religious activity and to violate freedom of religion or belief in Cuba.

In Cuba, Christians can be harassed by the authorities. The local governments together with the Cuban Communist Party officials and police frequently encouraged communities to harass religious leaders and their congregations. As a result of Cuba’s severe Christian persecution, the country was in 2019 added to the US State Department special watch list for governments that have practised or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom.”

In the government of Cuba’s crackdown against religious freedom in the country, religious leaders whom the authorities expect to denounce or expose the lack of religious freedom in Cuba are usually denied permission to travel abroad. In July 2019, for example, the Cuban government issued a travel ban that blocked Cuban pastors from travelling to Washington to attend a US State Department conference for promoting religious freedom.

Pastors who are allowed to travel abroad are usually monitored and upon their return, they can be detained for hours as security officials interrogate them about where they stayed and what contacts they made with churches abroad.

Prisoners are also usually denied the right to pastoral visits and the right to meet with other prisoners for worship, prayer or Bible study.

In Cuba, it is illegal to organize religious activities in buildings that are not registered for religious use. In one instance in October 2019, a Cuban pastor was fined by the authorities and a government official threatened to demolish his house for conducting religious services at home.

The registration of Churches in Cuba is handled by the Ministry of Justice. If a church happens to be registered, it is required by the government to seek permission from the Office of Religious Affairs each time it wants to conduct activities in its approved locations. The registered church is also required to seek from the government for permission on other issues such as publishing major decisions from its meetings, receiving foreign visitors, importing religious literature, purchasing and operating motor vehicles, and constructing, repairing, or purchasing places of worship. The Cuban government has largely denied the construction of new religious buildings and it does not recognize any church buildings constructed after the 1959 revolution.

In 2019, the Cuban government changed the constitution tried to legalize gay marriage by re-defining marriage as a union “between two people” rather than between a man and a woman. The Christian denominations in Cuba strongly protested against this new legislation and the state was compelled to delete the new language that would have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples. The state, however, did not re-insert the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman and this left the door open for approving homosexual marriage in Cuba in the future.

The government controls virtually all media outlets in Cuba and restricts or blocks access to outside information. Radios and televisions in Cuba are all owned by the state and with the exception of the catholic church, all other religious denominations are not allowed to broadcast religious services on these mass media platforms.

Music is a core aspect of Cuban culture and identity. Raising up and training Christian musicians and worship leaders is hugely strategic. Some prominent musicians have become believers, increasing Cuba’s exposure to the gospel.

MAJOR RELIGIONS:

Only 5 percent of Cuba’s 11 million people are Protestant, according to the U.S. Department of State. As many as 70 percent are Roman Catholic, mixed with Afro-Cuban religion of Santeria. A significant number of Cubans are atheists and others engage in superstitious and spiritist practices.

PERSECUTION TYPE:

The government systematically persecutes Christians.

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN THIS NATION:

The Cuban government is involved in almost every aspect of the life of its citizens. Freedom of conscience—the right of all people to live out their lives according to their deeply held religious beliefs has been eliminated in Cuba and the authorities are now obsessed with governing the conscience of the Cuban people. To achieve this end, the government has amended the law and removed the provision for the freedom of conscience from the new 2019 draft constitution.

The Cuban government has also banned Homeschooling because it prevents the Cuban communist state from indoctrinating children in Marxist atheism in public schools. In 2019, an Evangelical Cuban Pastor, Ramón Rigal, and his wife were sentenced to several years in prison by the Cuban communist regime for homeschooling their children.

The Cuban law imposes complicated and repressive restrictions on the establishment of “house churches” (private residences used as places of worship). It is illegal for two house churches of the same denomination to exist within two kilometres of one another. And for each authorized house church, detailed information – including the number of worshippers, dates and times of services, and the names and ages of all inhabitants of the house in which services are held – must be provided to government authorities.  Cuban authorities monitor and supervise the operation of church meetings.

In August 2019, a government official visited several house churches associated with one pastor in central Cuba and one elderly homeowner was threatened with criminal charges if more than 10 persons met in her home at any one time. Foreigners are required to obtain permission from the government before attending any service in a house church.

Churches are demolished by hired gangs so the government can deny responsibility. The government can also confiscate church buildings.

Christians who criticize the government or demand for greater freedoms are subject to harassment, raids on their homes and arbitrary arrests where they are sometimes held in solitary confinement. Christians are so closely watched by the government that they are effectively under house arrest. In addition, Christians are often denied jobs and educational opportunities. However, in the midst of all this turmoil, the church continues to grow through active evangelism, but some of the country’s estimated 1 million believers have never owned a Bible.

ACCESS TO BIBLES:

Access to Bibles and Christian literature is restricted. Bibles and religious literature are sometimes confiscated by the government. There was a case where Christian literature was described by the Cuban authorities as “against the government” and was confiscated from two prominent Cuban pastors.

There are no Christian book stores in Cuba. Bibles can cost up to a third of a worker’s monthly income, so most people can’t afford them.

SOURCES:
Anon (2019) 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom: Cuba. [Online]. 27 June 2019. U.S. Embassy in Cuba. Available from: https://cu.usembassy.gov/2018-report-on-international-religious-freedom-cuba/ [Accessed: 8 January 2020]
Anon (n.d.) Christian persecution – Conservapedia. [Online]. Available from: https://www.conservapedia.com/Christian_persecution#Cuba [Accessed: 10 January 2020b].
Anon (n.d.) Cuba | Operation World. [Online]. Available from: http://www.operationworld.org/country/cuba/owtext.html [Accessed: 10 January 2020d].
Anon (n.d.) CUBA – Voice of the Martyrs Korea. [Online]. Available from: https://vomkorea.com/en/country-profile/cuba/ [Accessed: 8 January 2020e].
Anon (n.d.) Officials in Cuba Forbid Church Leaders to Attend Religious Freedom Event – Morningstar News. [Online]. Available from: https://morningstarnews.org/2019/07/officials-in-cuba-forbid-church-leaders-to-attend-religious-freedom-event/ [Accessed: 11 January 2020i].
Anon (8:52am) Smith, USCIRF welcome State Department report on religious persecution. [Online]. 8:52am. National Catholic Reporter. Available from: https://www.ncronline.org/news/politics/smith-uscirf-welcome-state-department-report-religious-persecution [Accessed: 11 January 2020].
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Anon (n.d.) Snapshot. [Online]. Available from: https://www.christianpost.com/news/christians-cuba-facing-harassment-communist-officials-pastors-threatened.html [Accessed: 8 January 2020m].
Anon (n.d.) The Voice of the Martyrs Canada | Pastor Threatened for Repairing Churches. [Online]. Available from: https://www.vomcanada.com/cu-2019-03-07.htm [Accessed: 10 January 2020o].
Augustin, E. (2019) Cuba’s evangelical alliance leads crusade against gay marriage. The Observer. [Online] 24 February. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/24/cuba-evangelical-crusade-conservative-christianity-against-gay-marriage-constitution-referendum [Accessed: 8 January 2020].
Avenue, H.R.W.| 350 F., York, 34th Floor | New & t 1.212.290.4700, N. 10118-3299 U.| (2018) World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cuba. [Online]. 20 December 2018. Human Rights Watch. Available from: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cuba [Accessed: 10 January 2020].
Casper, J. (n.d.) 40 Years Later, Iran’s Islamic Revolution Feels Threatened by House Churches. [Online]. News & Reporting. Available from: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/iran-christian-arrests-40th-islamic-revolution-house-church.html [Accessed: 11 January 2020].
Diana Chandler (2019) Cuba ramps up religious persecution after election. [Online]. 28 February 2019. Baptist Press. Available from: http://www.bpnews.net/52497/cuba-ramps-up-religious-persecution-after-election [Accessed: 8 January 2020].
Frank E. Lockwood (2019a) Report: Worship freedom denied; 16 nations called faith persecutors. [Online]. 30 April 2019. Available from: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/apr/30/report-worship-freedom-denied-20190430/ [Accessed: 11 January 2020].
Frank E. Lockwood (2019b) Report: Worship freedom denied; 16 nations called faith persecutors. [Online]. 30 April 2019. Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Available from: https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2019/apr/30/report-worship-freedom-denied-20190430/ [Accessed: 11 January 2020].
Martel, F. (2019a) Christian Father Imprisoned for Homeschooling: Cuba Went to War with Us. [Online]. 20 May 2019. Breitbart. Available from: https://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2019/05/20/christian-father-imprisoned-homeschooling-cuba-went-war-us/ [Accessed: 10 January 2020].
Martel, F. (2019b) Cuban Pastor, Wife Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Homeschooling. [Online]. 23 April 2019. Breitbart. Available from: https://www.breitbart.com/faith/2019/04/23/cuban-pastor-wife-sentenced-to-2-years-in-prison-for-homeschooling/ [Accessed: 10 January 2020].
News, C.S.W., Morning Star (2019) The Voice of the Martyrs Canada | Defenders of Religious Freedom Blocked from Meetings. [Online]. 18 July 2019. VOMC |. Available from: https://www.vomcanada.com/cu-2019-07-18.htm [Accessed: 8 January 2020].
Okonkwo, R.O. (n.d.) An Islamic State Christmas killing of 11 hostages in Nigeria threatens to flare up religious tensions. [Online]. Quartz Africa. Available from: https://qz.com/africa/1776736/islamic-state-kills-11-nigerian-christians-pressure-on-buhari/ [Accessed: 10 January 2020].
Patrick Goodenough (2019) Cuban Regime Slammed for Preventing Pastors From Attending State Dep’t Religious Freedom Event | CNSNews. [Online]. 17 July 2019. Available from: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/cuban-regime-slammed-preventing-pastors-attending-state-dept [Accessed: 10 January 2020].
Stoyan Zaimov (2018) Pastors in Cuba monitored, threatened by Communist officials despite requests for greater protections: watchdog. [Online]. 14 December 2018. Available from: https://www.christianpost.com/news/christians-cuba-facing-harassment-communist-officials-pastors-threatened.html [Accessed: 8 January 2020].
VOMC (n.d.) The Voice of the Martyrs Canada | Cuba. [Online]. VOMC |. Available from: https://www.vomcanada.com/cuba.htm [Accessed: 8 January 2020].