A new openness in Cuba's religious climate has meant new
opportunities for Canadian Christian organizations to reach out to
Cuba's churches and people. This tolerance for religion may come as
a surprise for many Canadians who are used to thinking of the
Caribbean island as an atheistic state.
But when Cuba made the official switch from an atheist state to a
secular state in the 1990s it actually meant "more freedom for the
church. Because if a government is secular it has to be open to all
religions," says Steve Wile, deputy executive director of the Billy
Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada (BGEAC), one of the many
Canadian organizations making inroads into Cuba.
Wile says the BGEAC has become involved in a support capacity for
the Protestant Church in Cuba for the first time ever, providing
videos, Bibles, and reading materials to help churches communicate
the gospel to their friends and neighbors.
Their program also trains pastors so when congregants attend house
churches they can watch a 50-minute video "uniquely created for
Cuba, with music and interviews of local Cubans asking them about
their hopes. The fact that people on the street will agree to be
interviewed indicates the level of openness happening in the
country," says Wile.
The video alternates between music - which Wile says Cubans love -
and testimonies, including one from a female spiritus (witch) and a
20-minute dramatization of a man's conversion experience. Wile
reports that during a recent visit to Cuba he witnessed hosts of
home churches sharing their testimonies then providing the
opportunity for congregants to make a decision for Christ.
Meanwhile, I.N. Network Canada, based in Collingwood, Ont., is
also making what they call "unprecedented" inroads into Cuban
culture in partnership with Seeds International, a Christian
non-profit organization based in Abbotsford, B.C.
I.N. Network is focusing its efforts on child evangelism with a
14-week Christian discipleship program.
"We reached 26,850 children last year and we are now officially in
our second phase of the outreach," explains Otoniel Perez, Latin
America director. "We're well on our way to reaching 60,000
children." The program puts Christian workbooks into the hands of
Cuban children, something Perez says has never happened
Perez, himself a Cuban-born Canadian, believes Canada has a
special connection with Cuba, which residents of both countries
feel. "Over half a million Canadians went to Cuba on vacation last
year. Because of the American blockade of Cuba, we are the next
neighbor to the north. We have a welcome mat. We ought to use it,"
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada