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1. Can you tell me something about Cuba and its people?
Cuba is a communist country where people and churches struggle daily to survive under the meager living conditions and food supply. With a population of over 11,451,652 people, 80% of the population still has no commitment with a church. Cuban residents are very friendly and resourceful. Almost everyone on the island is in need of financial as well as spiritual support, which makes this a country in great need of missions, humanitarian visits and donations.
History Of Religion In Cuba
After Fidel Castro took over, Cuba became officially an atheistic state (under their constitution) and punished religious practice.
From 1959 to 1961, 80% of professional catholic priest and protestant ministers left Cuba to go to the U.S.A.
Through 1968, religious leaders who remained in the Island were summarily collected and sent to work camps for rehabilitation for two years as “work brigades” under the UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production) program. Many died there.
The relationship between the new Cuban government and religion began to intensify. Following the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban government further limited Church operations by using the excuse of suspicion of religious groups collaborating with the C.I.A.
In 1991, some restrictions eased but we still see countless severe violations of religious freedom.
Underground churches thrive in Cuba as they do elsewhere under Communist tyranny. Frequently, the families of Communist leaders worship there in secret.
Disinformation campaign is effective only with gullible Christians off the island.
The CDR is not an armed National Guard. It does not repel foreign invaders. Its members are families on each block who spy on their neighbors, copy automobile license numbers of visitors to nearby homes, and inform on secret church meetings.
Persecution Of Christians
Persecution of Christians has been severe, Catholics suffering even more than Protestants. For decades Christians were subject to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment, discrimination, and any church activities were restricted or arbitrarily banned. All open witness, evangelism and literature production and distribution was made almost impossible. That persecution has diminished but not ceased, but the capriciousness of its application breeds insecurity. Applications for registering or repairing churches are routinely ignored. Discipleship is still costly but many are prepared to pay the price and shine for Jesus. Pray for continued courage and fortitude for believers, and for complete religious freedom.
Restriction On Religious Freedom
Church leaders who openly call on the government to respect religious freedom and those who refuse to work on behalf of the government (as informers) have been targeted for particularly severe harassment.
New ministry of Housing Regulation restricts the transfer of staff/ pastors from one city to another city. Pastors that need to replace another pastor because of death or temporary leave of absence are now prohibited from doing so.
Reported discrimination and defamation in state run media of Christians and religious groups who renounce the CCP (Cuban Communist Party) or refuse to become members.
Since 1959, only a handful of new churches have been permitted by the government. Within the past fifteen years the Church has grown 6.5 % each year, growing rapidly with no place to unite. This constitutes as a serious religious liberty violation because Christians cannot exercise their right to meet together to worship.
Churches established before the revolution that are considering expanding or repairing the structure must have permission from the Office of Religious Affairs. These are rarely granted, many are denied upon request or don’t receive a response.
Many house churches have been subjected to systematic intimidation by the CCP and the CDR (committees for the defense of the revolution). House churches receive regular visits by officials urging threats and repercussions for holding the religious activities.
Since the 2005 legislation on the House Churches there have been reports of destruction to church buildings.
Churches and pastoral houses have been confiscated by the local governments, with rare compensation.
Church leaders are the targets of severe harassment including death threats, imprisonment and house/church vandalism.
Church leaders of all denominations report difficulties in applying for exit visas and permits for church vehicles, and have no chance of appealing the decision.
Government informants planted in churches and seminaries are a serious problem. Many pastors are forced to practice self-censorship, watching all they say as not to be considered anti-revolutionary in any sermons or teachings. Religious leaders, as the only ones other than government officials that are permitted to speak publically to groups, are viewed as potentially dangerous.
Churches are not afforded the right to set up radio and television.
Shortage of Bibles results from severe government restrictions on the import of Bibles and other religious literature. The lack of Bibles is heightened in rural areas but is a significant problem in all cities and denominations.
The Church faces restrictions in regards to written and electronic communications.
The Cuban Church struggles with reaching out because of the atheism established by the government.
Churches can only accept donations from state approved funding sources.
Churches must provide full financial audits, are limited to the number of services and must receive permission to host foreign visitors, such as missionaries.
Prisoners reported being denied the right to pastoral visits and the right to meet together to worship, pray and study the Bible.
Prisoners have Bibles confiscated as a form of punishment or simply out of the capriciousness of the government.
Despite recently signing the U.N Human Rights Convention, the government continues the serious violations of religious freedom in the treatment of Prisoners.
“Freedom of speech and freedom of the press do not exist in Cuba,” “Freedom of assembly does not exist either. Today, a network of formal and informal restrictions has the effect of limiting religious activity.”
“Cuban law prohibits the observance of religious events when they conflict with work obligations or patriotic celebrations.”
“Telephones are monitored, mail opened, and one’s comings and goings are watched twenty-four hours a day by the block wardens of the Committee for the defense of the Revolution. Meetings, parties, and other activities are subject to particularly intense scrutiny. Listening to foreign radio and television broadcasts is dangerous because of this surveillance.
“Since Castro took power, a minimum number of Bibles have entered Cuba. The Communist sympathizing CCC/Ecumenical Council controls these shipments of donated Bibles. Conventions which are not members of the Council of Churches (such as the Southern and American Baptists affiliates, Assemblies of God, and others) receive none of the Bibles. They must purchase them if there are any left-over after distribution to its members. Pentecostals, Adventists and Baptists, not represented on the CCC.
Their attempts to restrain Christians go beyond the church. The Marxist muzzle covers believers educationally, politically and legally as well.
Christians still are not able to freely print their own literature.
The government has routinely destroyed Bibles and other Christian literature.
There are no Christian bookstores in Cuba.
In December 1995, a regulation was enacted that forbids the sale of paper, ink, typewriters, computers and mechanical parts for photocopiers and printing presses to religious organizations.
2. What is the U.S.-Cuban Relations?
U.S. policy toward Cuba is focused on encouraging democratic and economic reforms and increased respect for human rights on the part of the Cuban Government. In April 2009, the United States announced the lifting of restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba, expanded the list of items eligible for humanitarian export to Cuba, and announced new regulations for U.S. telecommunications companies to expand the flow of information to Cuba.
Though Cuba is subject to trade sanctions, the United States remains Cuba’s largest source of food and humanitarian aid. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the 1994-95 U.S.Cuba Migration Accords.
Though Cuba is subject to trade sanctions, the United States remains Cuba’s largest source of food and humanitarian aid. The United States is committed to supporting safe, orderly, and legal migration from Cuba through the effective implementation of the 1994-95 U.S.Cuba Migration Accords.
All U.S. travel to Cuba must be licensed by the Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and must fall into one of twelve categories provided on the Department of Treasury’s website. EchoCuba is authorized to provide licenses to individuals who will be traveling for humanitarian reasons, and provides each traveler with humanitarian aid to deliver to ministries on the island.
3. How long would it take to set up a trip with ECHOcuba?
This depends on the individual traveler’s situation; however, it usually takes between two to three weeks to set up a humanitarian trip to Cuba. Visit the Mission’s Travel page for more information.
4. What are the greatest needs of the people and the churches in Cuba?
The greatest need for people in Cuba is a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of them walk around without a hope or strength to persevere. Through the teachings and calling God has given to many of the Pastors and Seminaries we work with, we have been able to share God’s love and the life-changing message of the Bible with thousands in Cuba.
The Un-churched Majority: Our mission is to empower the independent Cuban Evangelical Church on the island. Church attendance was once the lowest for any country in the Western hemisphere. This has risen in the 1990s, but 80% of the population still has no meaningful contact with a church. Over the years, EchoCuba has supported ministries that promote gospel-centered Christian education, humanitarian aid, and small business initiatives throughout Cuba. We collaborate with local leaders throughout Cuba and with others to bring hearts, minds and resources together. Our dependence in changing lives relies on God.
Leadership for The Churches: Leadership for the churches is a pressing need. Many had to flee or were expelled in the years following the revolution. Praise God for those who stood firm for Jesus and who have become mighty for God in the school of suffering. There are now a dozen evangelical and two Catholic Bible schools or seminaries. Student numbers are limited by lack of teaching materials, theologically trained faculty, and the widespread poverty.
Along with these spiritual needs is a very present financial need. Many Cuban residents cannot afford the basic necessities due to the average salary of $7 dollars a month.
5. How can I get involved in helping ECHOcuba?

If you are a part of a church or another organization, you could host a Cuba Night. A Cuba night is a very casual Cuban themed event, with light snacks and music. The main objective is to raise awareness on how to get others involved in helping Cuba. An representative would give a brief presentation about the work God is doing in Cuba and the current situation in Cuba. This occasion is centered around fellowship, and getting others motivated. We provide the tools and material to host this event.
Another way to help is by acting as a volunteer humanitarian aid courier. This means that we would supply you with humanitarian aid, and facilitate your trip to Cuba. You would have the opportunity to meet our ministries in Cuba and deliver the much needed help to them personally.
If you’re a student you can choose to be an EchoCuba foot soldier, and spread the word about our humanitarian trips around your campus. We provide the material and simply ask that you post it or hand it to your fellow students.
You can choose to donate to a specific project. EchoCuba is dedicated to empowering the independent Cuban Evangelical Christian church through ministry programs that focus on Christian education, leadership development, small business development and building civil society. Any donation is a blessing and serves to continue our projects in Cuba. Recently we are trying to encourage donations for a Yuba Bike to send to Cuba. Check out the article in our latest newsletter.