Growing up in Miami, Florida, especially as a Cuban-American, there was a name I couldn’t escape, no matter where I found myself. Everyone knew who he was: You didn’t need to ask. It was a name that could be the topic of drunk conversations, as people dreamed of the day he’d either die or be driven out of power, as well as a name that could simultaneously invoke tears as they recalled everything (and everyone) they had lost under his reign.
The name was Fidel Castro, the man who tore Cuba apart at the seams.
I don’t know where it all went wrong for Fidel Castro. Some think he truly started his “revolution” with good intentions, but along the way, he became the cruel dictator he would come to be known as by all in the United States. Others believe he was a “demon” who, from the very beginning, wanted nothing more than to become one of the world’s most powerful men and did so by bringing an entire island of people to their knees, demanding their worship of him.
I don’t know which one of these men Fidel Castro truly was. What I do know is this: History will not absolve Fidel Castro. His hands are stained by the blood spilled at his command (and only Jesus could cleanse him).
This will not be a history lesson. While I am Cuban, I feel that my time writing this article isn’t best served teaching you Cuba’s history. (A simple google search, especially now right after his passing, will lead to any information you could want to know about Cuba’s history). What this will serve as is a perspective of a girl who, while passionate about social justice, was directly affected by Fidel Castro’s reign.
As a Christian, I don’t wish for anyone to die. When Osama Bin Laden was killed, “Christian Facebook” found itself at a crossroads. Half the Christians were celebrating his death as Americans, while half where “celebrating justice, but sad that another soul perished without knowing Christ”. I was in that second half (and me being vocal about conviction led to many arguments with fellow Christians). Despite the deeply personal connection to Castro, I still belong in that second half, sad that he (most likely) did not come to know Christ before his passing.
However, what I would like Christians (and those who are choosing to ignore the horrific things he did in the name of “politics”) to know is this: when you see people proudly raising Cuban flags into the air and crying tears of joy, it is because they are celebrating HOPE.
America has a history of hating people who disagree with them. Many believe Castro wasn’t that bad, he was just hated because he stood up to America and refused to be “bullied” by them. Others hate him simply because he was communist, but could care less about the lives he altered for an eternity. On Twitter, I was shocked to see a prominent figure, one who normally fights for social justice, praise Castro. When I tweeted him to tell him that he was a merciless tyrant who didn’t deserve praise, someone tweeted back to me and said “stop spreading lies”.
I’m Cuban. I am not lying. I have seen with my own eyes what Castro has done to his people.
Take for example the story of poet Armando Valladares. The man spent 22 years in prison simply because he refused to say he was communist. You can see his full story here: https://www.facebook.com/becketfund/videos/1276470039041865/
And that is just one story. There are many more like it. If you’d dare to disagree, I’d ask you to find one Cuban (just one) and ask them what they think of Fidel Castro. There is no Cuban who has left Cuba that will tell you he was a great man. Those in Cuba still fear for their lives, so they will say whatever they need to say to the “press” in order to spare their lives.
“Oh, but he gave his people healthcare and education!”
How great is your healthcare plan if you have to call you family in the United States to ask them to send you aspirin? My husband recalls phone calls from his sister in Cuba asking for medicine because there wasn’t any in Cuba accessible to her. As a matter of fact, one of his cousins would make frequent trips to Cuba with all kinds of over the counter medicine in his luggage for the people of Cuba.
And education? Sure, the education is (arguably) great…but North Korea’s education is great as well as we don’t seem to praise them much for it. Perhaps we hold our praise for North Korea because we can see that the children are being taught two falsehoods for every fact they learn. The same is true for Cuba.
While I don’t know my Cuban history all too well, the video in this article proves to be interesting. I won’t translate the whole thing here, but just know that while they’re struggling a bit to answer the questions at the beginning (and some of what they’re saying isn’t exactly true like “in the United States, you have to pay for school, unlike here”), they can all perfectly recite the names of Cuban spies currently in the U.S. You can also read this Cuban’s experience as a child here.
So what do we do now, as the Church, for the people of Cuba? The first thing we can do is pray. The “island” as many Cubans call it is still under a dark cloud of persecution. While some are beginning to stand up against the regime, they are still “disappearing” and being jailed for speaking out. Just ask the “ladies in white” (Damas de Blanco), the women who wear all white every Sunday to protest the Castro regime. This is what happens when you disagree with the government.
And what I want you to know is that who take them to jail are dressed normally. They are Cuban police who are always undercover, monitoring the activities of neighborhoods. This is not a “free society”. There is nothing free about that.
What can you do? PRAY. Pray hard. Shed tears when you pray over children asking where their fathers have disappeared to after speaking out against Castro. Shed tears for the countless Cubans that drowned at sea trying to make it to the United States on “boats” they built from whatever materials they could find. And shed tears for the family members of those people in the U.S. who are still mourning. Cry out to God and ask for His name to be glorified in Cuba.
Look for ways to help. Whether it’s a monetary donation to a trustworthy organization or it’s a physical trip to Cuba, there are many ways to take part in bringing Christ to Cuba. (And if your church is interested in starting mission trips to Cuba, please let me know and I will put you in contact with my old church in Miami. They actually have a “campus” in Cuba and have many contacts there. Just comment below and I’ll answer as soon as I can).
Finally, respect the celebrating you see in Miami. Perhaps you’re like me and you think celebrating death is wrong. Now is not the time to point your finger and copy/paste a Bible verse on someone’s Facebook to tell them they’re in sin by celebrating. Perhaps you’re more liberal and you actually like some pieces of socialism (I’m more of a “democratic socialist” myself, so I understand this a bit). Now isn’t the time to “praise Castro”. Honestly, I don’t see how you can reconcile “believing in rights for all” and praising Castro, “the man who took away the rights of all”. Truthfully, the only equality he believed in was equal tyranny. He stripped every one of everything they owned equally. I guess that’s equality.
While there is a new window of hope for the Cuban people, the truth is there is no hope outside of Jesus Christ. Even here, in the United States, we see evidence of that everywhere. Even in our “perfect government” (which is far from perfect), there are people who are completely devoid of hope. Jesus is the key to true freedom.
So what is the Christian response to Cuba? Simply put, pray and look for ways to serve and bring the true hope to the people of Cuba, both on the island and here in the United States.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
– Acts 1:8
“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'”
– Mark 16:15