As many of you know, we have been involved in an effort to equip indigenous church planters and pastors on the island nation of Cuba for many years now. With the recent news of a new President in Cuba; Miguel Díaz-Canel (pictured above with his arm being raised by Raul Castro), we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at how this may impact the Christian church in Cuba. Recently, Miguel Díaz-Canel was officially named as the new leader of Cuba, one day after a secret vote in the country's National Assembly. This is significant as it marks the first time in almost sixty years that Cuba is not being led by someone named Castro.
Fidel Castro governed the Republic of Cuba as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. However, due to Fidel’s declining health his brother Raul Castro officially took over the office of President in 2008. Fidel remained as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba until 2011 at which time Raul Castro also assumed that position.
Since Raul Castro will remain First Secretary of the Communist Party, the appointment of Miguel Díaz-Canel as President of Cuba means that he effectively becomes the second most powerful leader in Cuba. Despite his new title as President, Díaz-Canel emphasized the continuing leadership role that Raul Castro will play for the country. “Raul Castro, as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, will lead the decisions of greatest transcendence for the present and the future of this country,” Díaz-Canel said in a speech to the Cuban National Assembly in Havana. Interestingly, the end of the Castro era of rule over Cuba is in sight. Castro announced that Díaz-Canel will eventually succeed him as head of the Communist Party. Castro plans to step down from that post in 2021. Castro said control of the state would eventually be consolidated in Díaz-Canel, as it was in the Castros. However, in an announcement that comes as a surprise to many, Castro also said that future Cuban presidents should be limited to serving two five-year terms.
Impact on the Church in Cuba
International observers are uncertain how the leadership of Díaz-Canel will impact the church in Cuba, but many believe that if Diaz-Canel adheres to the course set by Raul Castro, the church should continue to thrive as much as it can. Under Raul Castro, evangelical churches grew in number and in freedom of expression. The nation of Cuba, while never having been an exceptionally religious country, has been experiencing somewhat of a revival over the last 25 years since the communist government began to ease religious persecutions. As a result, things have basically been headed in the right direction the last few years. Cuban believers can share their faith door-to-door and in public.
Relevant Bible Passages
Our Savior instructed us that His Gospel “shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). The Great Commission commands believers to “go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Thus, as the events in other parts of the world offer illustrations of the foreboding aspects of Bible prophecy, these recent developments in Cuba offer us an example of the positive role Christians are called to play in a vital aspect of God’s eschatological plan; to evangelize the nations! Still, we need to pray this will happen effectively.