For more than half a century our denomination has maintained a close bond with the Christian Reformed Church in Cuba. As the February Banner highlighted, through God’s faithfulness the Cuban churches have grown and flourished despite years of oppression by the Castro regime (“The CRC’s Cuban Bond”). But an important addition to that story is how the U.S. embargo has continued to hurt Christian ministry in Cuba.
Although the Christian Reformed Church in North America almost never takes official stances on specific policy reforms, the denominational leadership began advocating to end the embargo in 1998, believing it detrimental to the ministry of the church in two ways.
First, the embargo restricts the ability of U.S. members to fulfill the great commission of Matthew 28. Although Canadian members can engage in ministry in Cuba without restriction, the U.S. government denies its citizens the freedom to travel to and give financial support to Cuban churches. Missionaries face criminal prosecution by the U.S. government for visiting without a permit. In 2004 the U.S. Treasury Department increased restrictions on religious organizations and denied Christian Reformed World Missions a travel license altogether. Although the license was regained after substantial lobbying, the Treasury whittled it down to only a handful of predetermined names.
Second, the embargo hurts the people of Cuba. So great is their concern that our brothers and sisters in the Cuban CRC formally requested our assistance in advocating for reform: “As a church, the feeling of the majority is that this is an injustice that causes suffering for the very weakest people,” they stated. “For this reason, we condemn it and pray to God that it disappears very soon. . . . We request that our churches . . . use their good relations with the government of the United States to let it know our desire. It is inadmissible that such a noble and giving nation, where there are so many Christians, could allow a law that greatly harms the children, the elderly, the sick, and the most weak.”
After prayerful consideration, the boards of World Missions and the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, along with the CRCNA Board of Trustees acting on behalf of Synod, approved this powerful request in 1998. More than a decade later, our advocacy efforts continue.
God calls us to spread the gospel, to nurture Christ’s church, and to work for the removal of barriers that prevent the fulfillment of that mandate. The U.S. embargo of Cuba is one such barrier.
To learn how to take action to stop the U.S. embargo of Cuba, visit crcjustice.org.
About the Author
Cheryl Cooper is a counselor and marriage and family therapist who works with individuals, couples, and families. She worships at Lakeside Community CRC in Alto, Mich.