“It is true that liberty is precious – so precious that it must be rationed. We must combat religion, that is the ABC of … Marxism.”
– V.I. Lenin
I have never been to Cuba, but given the description offered by my courageous friend Ken McCune (the front page story about his trip to Cuba is a must read), a visit there would only make me appreciate the freedom we have in America even more.
For 50 years Cubans have lived under the Communist yoke led by the brutal dictator Fidel Castro. It is a spiritually dark, thoroughly atheistic society that exists just 90 miles from Key West. It is one in which enslaved human beings exist solely to serve the state. For communists like Castro, the State is their god.
Castro has offered no mercy to his citizenry – and particularly to Christians. Just since the 1990s more than 100,000 Cubans have been condemned to Castro’s gulags for their religious and political beliefs. Approximately 16,000 people have been executed, mostly by firing squads. In just one year – 1961 – Castro forced 3,400 priests and nuns into exile. In 1969 Castro abolished Christmas as a holiday. He has since reversed his decision, but could reinstate it at anytime. A Christian organization that watches Cuba reported on Feb. 4, 1999, that state officials confiscated and burned thousands of Bibles sent from the United States because they were considered “subversive books.”
Amnesty International, known more for its liberal than conservative leanings, puts the number of political prisoners in Cuba between 900 and 2,500, many women and children. Abortion is encouraged by the state and is widespread. Castro’s neighborhood watchdog groups patrol communities block by block looking for “subversives.” In a weekend crackdown by government security forces, more than 100,000 Cubans were questioned or arrested. They were on lists compiled by Castro’s community watchdog groups. At various times under Castro’s rule, freedom-loving Cubans have been forced into the sea, often on makeshift rafts, in their attempt to escape such oppression. In the summer of 1994, 7,000 people lost their lives while attempting to flee, about one-third of those at sea. Many died when Castro sent helicopters to drop sandbags on their small, makeshift rafts. In 1998 Castro ordered his military to shoot down two unarmed U.S. civilian airplanes on missions to help Cubans escape, killing everyone on board.
Some observers believe there have been slight improvements in the way people – even Christians – are being treated. Throughout Castro’s rule there have been brief periods when persecution was relaxed – generally for public relations reasons. Such instances are generally followed by a new wave of crackdowns.
The U.S. Commission on International Freedom (USCIF), a bipartisan group created to monitor religious freedom in the world, was forced to cancel a planned trip to Cuba recently when visas were withheld from members of the delegation. The Cuban government offered no explanation. Cuba is on USCIF’s “Watch List” of countries requiring monitoring because they deny people religious freedom. “If everything is so normal in Cuba, then the Cuban government should welcome a USCIF visit. Not allowing USCIF’s bipartisan delegation to visit is a very disturbing sign,” said a spokesman with the group.
Despite Castro’s best laid plans, God reigns. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 that He will build His Church and that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. No wonder Cuban churches are reportedly experiencing growth. There were about 1,000 house churches in 1991. Estimates today place the number at anywhere from 3,000 up to 16,000.