This article from The GroundTruth Project reports on the growing strength of Christian groups in Cuba and the barriers to freely practicing one’s faith despite a new constitution that guarantees religious freedom.
From the jubilant inauguration of the first new Catholic church in 60 years in the western town of Sandino; to the bombastic gospel hymns echoing from the University Methodist Church through the crumbling mansions of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, a revival of religious expression is underway in Cuba.
But while Cuba’s new constitution passed a referendum last month with significant popular support, the quasi-democratic process surfaced deep-seated fractures over rights like religious freedom, freedom of assembly and marriage equality.
At the center of much of the debate were Christians who found a louder voice during a six-month public comment phase in which Communist Party officials held an estimated 35,000 gatherings across the country to solicit feedback.
The paradox, of course, is that Communist Party leaders are famously intolerant to criticism. And yet, coordinated pressure from Catholics, evangelicals and other Christian groups led the Party to scrub a clause from an early draft of the constitution that had defined marriage as between two people rather than exclusively between a man and a woman.
And while religious freedom remained in the document throughout the process, a coalition of Protestant, Methodist and Assembly of God leaders pushed for more specific protections.
Image: The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish is the first Catholic church built in Cuba in the last 60 years. The St. Lawrence Church in Tampa raised $95,000 for this project. Photo by St. Lawrence Church