What does persecution look like in Cuba?
Cuba's communist regime is not tolerant of dissenting voices or any other institutions gaining influence or power. The church falls into both of these camps and, as a result, Christians experience persecution from the authorities.
Christian activists or church leaders speaking out against corruption or political issues can be arrested and imprisoned. Others face smear campaigns against them and harassment or violence from the authorities and their sympathisers. The authorities compile a database of churches and pastors considered 'counter-revolutionaries', which these Christians fear will be another way to monitor and control them.
Communist Cuba has historically aimed to repress religion and reduce the church's influence. Today, this is done by refusing to register new churches or allow them to buy or use premises to meet legally. This forces many believers to meet illegally in unregistered house churches – if caught, they can then be fined, have their property confiscated or have their church shut down. It's hard for Christians to get a visa to visit Cuban churches, and it's considered a 'suspicious activity' if a Cuban Christian tries to visit believers in other countries. This makes international fellowship, and getting Christian literature, very difficult.
The state does not allow Christians freedom of conscience on social issues. For instance, if the state passes new legislation on marriage, churches will be forced to comply. If they don’t, church leaders are likely to be monitored and threatened by the state security agency.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Christians leading house churches and young men taking part in protests are most at risk, particularly in the capital, Havana.
Meet "Pastor Luiz"
"We meet in my house's garage and homes around different neighbourhoods because we do not have a building, not even the possibility of legally registering our church."Pastor Luiz, a Cuban missionary whose new church is denied authorisation
What has changed this year?
Cuba has risen ten places on the World Watch List, thanks to an increase in violence and pressure in all spheres of life. The dictatorial regime intensified its repressive tactics against all Christian leaders and activists that they view as opposing Communist principles. Government measures included arrests, abductions, arbitrary fines, close surveillance, denials of licenses and religious visas and physical and mental abuse.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Cuba?
Open Doors local partners strengthen the persecuted church in Cuba through Bible distribution, livelihood projects, biblical training, leadership development projects, care and support for children and pastors' families, and socio-economic development.
How can you pray for Cuba?
- Please pray that the regime would relax its surveillance and honour religious freedom.
- Pray for Open Doors partners encouraging churches that feel isolated from the world.
- Pray for God to give wisdom and courage to Christians wanting to stand up for what's right.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the courage of believers in Cuba who continue to speak up for You despite intense opposition from those in power. Give them wisdom to know when to speak, and confidence knowing that You are King. Please change the atmosphere in Cuba to bring freedom and justice in everyday life, and strengthen your church there. Amen.