Cuban churches will continue to create side by side with the people

In the meeting, the first of many that will take place with executives of religious institutions and fraternal associations as part of the permanent link they have sustained with the government during all these years, the Head of State acknowledged the work of those before him and whose work they would continue.

First Secretary of the Committee Central of the Communist Party Miguel Díaz-CanelBermúdezheld a friendly, open dialogue with members of the Council of Cuban Churches and ecumenical leaders. The dialogue was a space for gratefulness, tribute, faith, compromise, engagement, learning, reflection and hope.
With the churches, Cuba will continue to create. And just like Cuba, the churches will continue to create side by side with the people, a certainty expressed by the Council of Cuban Churches’ Executive Secretary Joel Ortega Dopico, that was repeated over and over in the many interventions that took place during the debate.
The President of the Republic invited them to make and to create together. In a little over three hours, he attentively listened to every word, wrote down notes in his notebookevery now and then; nodded and elaborated whenever there was a doubt; asked about community projects carried out by the churches of the council to help improve the communities they are in; opened ways to lift the obstacles that prevented a better result.
“We can still work and improve the ways to work in greater harmony by constantly building trust and the possibility to talk, to debate, even if we disagree,” the Head of State said.
Convinced that together it is possible to make and create more, the President thanked all those who took time to attend the meeting and honestly and openly talked about what they felt. He also praised their willpower to engage in the construction of the Cuban society with all their experience and all they can bring to the table.
“We are going to look for those spaces where you can take part and contribute, so you can work with us and so you can teach us because you have a lot to teach, like the practices you have improved over the years,” he said.
As part of the necessary, enriching dialogue, the President expressed his gratefulness for the prayers for him and his Administration by the attendees.He provided details about the current situation of the country and the latest events. He described the situation as both complex and challenging, however he pointed out that there is something about challenges and it is the way one sees life and the ability to look for solutions, to encourage and to work to overcome that situation, he added.
“We must continue to multiply everything that is efficient and contributes, everything that brings harmony, usefulness and beauty and get rid of everything that is inefficient, poses an obstacle, everything that is bureaucratic and corrupted,” he said.
The President spoke of the need to provide more attention to the neighborhoods and it is there where the government can count on the churches. Churches have developed projects and worked on the concept of popular education, and the government aspires to expand their experiences and enrich everything it does with the involvement of churches, the President underlined.
In the meeting, the first of many that will take place with executives of religious institutions and fraternal associations as part of the permanent link they have sustained with the government during all these years, the Head of State acknowledged the work of those before him and whose work they would continue.
He thanked the attendees for condemning the blockade in several stages and for upholding the position of Cuba to their equivalent churches in the world. Díaz-Canel expressed there was a coincidence between what they have said in those spaces and what Cuba wanted to do.
He spoke for a long time about the COVID- 19 pandemic and how the country has faced it for almost 17 months. The first idea of the government has always been to save lives, no matter the cost, he added.
Challenges, projects, shortages, changes of routine, support and willingness to do were thoroughly discussed in the meeting. From the respect to everyone’s beliefs, highly interesting ideascame out and more than one left the meeting with new assignments.
Serving the people and actively taking part in society and the country’s life have set the path of the Council of Cuban Churches in its 80 years of existence, the council’s Executive Secretary Joel Ortega Dopico proudly explained.
“In all the years of the Revolution and of the history of Cuba, the Council and the institutions that existed before have actively participated in the life of our society and of our Homeland,” he reminded. He then mentioned some of the many instances in which they have left an imprint: in the underground fight in the mountains; the literacy campaign; the actions to demand the return of Elian Gonzalez and the Cuban Five; the struggles to request the lift of the commercial, economic and financial blockade imposed by the US on Cuba.
Excited about this transcendental meeting, he spoke to Díaz-Canel with the emotion of those who feel taken into account, and told him he expected the massive rally in support of the Revolution held on August 6 marked a before and an after in the strategy of the Cuban ecumenical movement with the leadership of the Revolution.
“We have to follow the example of Frank Pais and Faustino Pérez, who gave their lives to the Revolution and now we arehere, confirming that we are the continuity of that work,” he said.
Certain that there are still a lot of topics to talk about and to tackle to achieve the transformation demanded by society, the Executive Secretary of the Council of Cuban Churches spoke about the necessary self-criticism, the pending rectification, the exhaustive review of the work methods and ethics that clash with the will to serve the people, bureaucracy, obstacles, and the insensitivity that makes so much damage.The church has not been able to escape these realities either, he said.
How can the church and religion become a bigger part of the participation processes for change we are undergoing? Ortega Dopico asked himself and the audience, and together they were little by little putting together ideas that ratified the importance of the search of the way of the dialogue not to stigmatize positions. There are cracks we have to mend together.
“It is the church we want to be, to be a church for our people,” he concluded.
“Brother President,here we are, as part of Cuba, to reaffirm our vocation of service, to continue in the dialogue, in the struggle, in the work, and we hope to continue in this process of dialogue enriching each other,” Carlos Ham Stanard, pastor of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, told the President.
The also Rector of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Matanzasthen proceeded to explain how the institution had been turned into an extension of the pediatric hospital, where 1500 patients were attended, in 47 days of service: 900 children and 600 parents and companions.
Those were days of great concern,but also of defense, of fighting for life, and of great satisfaction in being able to serve our people on this front, fighting for life,” he acknowledged.
Joel Suárez Rodés, executive coordinator of the Collegiate Coordination of the Martin Luther King Memorial Center, spoke about the need to summon and add so that everyone feels part of it; to understand that today’s society is not like the one of 20 years ago, that it is diverse, complex, and has a multiplicity of actors.
We ask to be convened more, especially in relation to labor and social policies for the attention to the vulnerable ones, he suggested to the First Secretary of the Central Committee. “A broad corridor must be created to save this Homeland, and it is up to the Party leadership to motivate it,” he said.
Dialogue cannot be imposed, it has to be born from the territory, from the place where people are doing, not saying, he considered.
Díaz-Canel then spoke about granting participation to all, of integrating, of convening. We are able to build it and we would be many more contributing, participating, he said. He was joined by members of the Political Bureau Manuel Marrero Cruz and Roberto Morales Ojeda, Prime Minister and Secretary of Organization and Cadre Policy of the Central Committee, respectively; as well as Rogelio Polanco Fuentes, member of the Secretary of the Central Committee, and Caridad Diego Bello, head of the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs of the Central Committee.
The 15 participants in the meeting took the floor first to express their gratitude and relayed they felt privileged to be able to meet with our authorities and deal with issues of common interest.
They also commented to the Cuban Presidentthe obstacles and bureaucracy that prevent the quick entry into the country of medicines and other supplies necessary for the work they carry out in the communities, and he assured them that many of these issues would be solved immediately. The decision to create an office within the government to deal with issues related to religious institutions will contribute greatly to open roads and make solutions feasible.
A cornerstone of the interventions was also the need to consolidate the existing spaces for dialogue, not only to talk about “things that concern us, but also to present solutions”; they asked that such spaces become permanent and not temporary, in which to give continuity to the issues and to see the answers to the questions.
With the church we have the duty to work for the unity of our people and we have done it from our messages, with our relatives, friends, people that we have seen that they are wrong, explained Lydia Aguiar Batista, vice president of the Council of Churches of Cuba and vice president of the Sovereign Grace Church.
To embrace, respect and take advantage of the diversity that defines today’s Cuba, called Dora Arce Valentin, pastor and moderator of the Presbyterian-Reformed Church. We cannot reject diversity, she insisted, we have to see that diversity as a gift, as something that enriches society.
That is the Cuba we want, a Cuba where families are diverse, where they assemble in the way they can, that they want, that they know because that is how we want the Cuban society to be, and in that sense we can be counted on.
Representatives of the Christian youth,”the present that builds the country and the world,” also spread their message, From their experiences, they also spoke of participation and the enormous challenge of feeling part of the construction of a better Cuba, in the most diverse scenarios.
“We wish the religious sector be present in the dialogues with the youth, because from our spirituality and our faith we also have a contribution to those dialogues”, requested to the Cuban PresidentDianetMartínez Valdés, secretary of the Student Christian Movement for Latin America.
“It is up to us now to nurture the unity in this country and to celebrate the diversity that we are. It is up to us, as a church, to be mediators, to be conciliators,” said Kirenia Criado Pérez, pastor of Los Amigos Church.
“Cuba is the center of my life, but reconciliation is the center of my task, and I believe that today it is our turn to have reconciliation as the center of our task and we offer ourselves as a church because of this experience we have lived, to be a space for reconciliation in the neighborhood, in the church, in the smallest communities, to work in these spaces of reconciliation that are so important”.
The intimate moment of reflection then turned into a tribute in which President Diaz-Canel received a wooden cross, a plaque and a Bible from the hands of Rhode Gonzales and Raul Suarez, former presidents of the Council of Churches of Cuba. Similar gifts were also presented to the rest of the members of the presidency.
For the 80th anniversary of its foundation, a recognition was given to the Council of Churches of Cuba. The council has historically maintained an attitude of respect, social participation and commitment to the Revolution. Signed by the President of the Republic, the document was received by the Vice President of the Council of Churches of Cuba, Lydia Aguiar Batista.
In this memorable meeting, the President of the Republic also conferred the Felix VarelaSecond Degree Order to Pastor Raul Suarez Ramos, pastor emeritus of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Marianao, protagonist of that historic meeting with Fidel in April 1990.
From the integrity and courage of his years, he was heard saying emotionally: “Raúl Suárez did not retire, he is in full jubilee, which means joy and happiness, which is what has given us this meeting and the other ones to come”.
Likewise, the Felix Varela Second Degree Orderwas granted posthumously to the Reverend Pablo OdénMarichal Rodríguez, a man of light who did a lot for the unity in revolutionary Cuba.
“You can count on and dispose of what we have, for whatever you wish for the benefit of the nation”, Marcial Hernandez Salazar, president of the Free Evangelical Church, had said a short time before.
And for the benefit of the whole nation, those present then joined in a prayer for life, and prayed together, because from our diversity our many strengths are also born.

source: Granma english

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