In Cuba, authorities often arrive without warning. On 10 March 2020, a group of men with sledgehammers appeared at Pastor David’s church at 9am. “They wanted to demolish the church and everything inside,” he said, “and [they] started smashing it with their 10-kilo sledgehammers. They came at that hour when the church was closed, hoping that no one would try to stop them from destroying everything.”
When the pastor and other church leaders learned what was happening, they rushed to the site and managed to stop the wrecking crew before the roof could collapse. David was filled with emotion as he gazed in disbelief at the destroyed church building. “You can imagine the sadness that we all had,” he explained, “after many years of sacrifice to be able to build a humble church and how they had unfairly demolished it.”
Decades ago, Cuba’s revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro, established an atheistic communist government and vowed to drive religion from the island. But Cuban church leaders say the opposite has happened. “It has been more than 60 years since he [Fidel] said that,” a church leader said, “but Christians are in Cuba, in many schools, in secret prison circles and in every municipality in Cuba. From east to west, north to south, Cuba is filled with the gospel.” As knowledge of the gospel increases in Cuba, however, so does government scrutiny.
After 17 years of worshipping together, Pastor Faustino’s church of 100 members faced the same opposition in 2021 that David’s church had experienced the previous year; the government sent a bulldozer to completely level the church building. Though the building was destroyed, church members continued to meet every day under a temporary roof at the church site, hoping to persuade the government to change its decision. Security officers confronted the Christians daily, pressuring them to leave, but the church members remained faithful despite running low on food and subsisting mainly on rice husks.
Other Cuban pastors have faced even greater pressures. Two have been imprisoned for more than a year, and one has reportedly been tortured and treated like a “counterrevolutionary criminal”. Still, the Communist Party’s efforts to crush churches in Cuba with sledgehammers, bulldozers and imprisonments continue to fail.
All that remains of Pastor David’s church building is the roof, yet his congregation continues to gather for worship and fellowship. They meet on porches and in kitchens, in fields and under trees. They baptise new believers in cleaned-out pigsties. “Despite everything,” David said, “the congregation continues to grow more and more.”
Another pastor, a widow who struggles to provide for her two teenage children, boldly defies authorities who regularly pressure her to stop her church activities. “I demand they show what law I have broken,” she said. Since the authorities have never cited a specific law, she continues her ministry work. Cuban Christians, like this faithful pastor, ask for prayer that they will continue to stand firm in their faith.
One Cuban pastor was told by a senior UN official that he could speak to the Pope, the president of the United States and Cuba’s leader on behalf of Cuban Christians. “What would you like me to tell them to do for the church in Cuba?” the UN official asked.
The pastor replied that they do not want anything from the Pope, the president or Cuba’s leader.
“We are not asking for persecution to be removed,” he told the official. “We just want people to pray that we remain faithful.”