Cuban Christians are using the need to wear sanitary masks in public to spread their faith, printing Bible verses on the front of them, the Christian aid group World Help revealed this week.
Babalú Blog, a website dedicated to news of interest to the Cuban global community, highlighted the development, noting that pastors were printing these messages despite the severe repression that Christians face in the communist country. Officially an atheist state, Cuba has allowed some Catholic activity after the Vatican began seeking closer relations to the Castro regime, but Protestants, dissident Catholics, and other Christian groups face regular threats and arrests on the part of state security.
World Help noted on its website that the group has been sending food and other necessary aid to Cubans on the island struggling to attain basic goods for years due to decades of communist economic collapse. It also received the suggestion of printing biblical verses on face masks to “share the Gospel to those who are looking for help spiritually … without even saying a word.”
“We don’t want to miss an opportunity to continue witnessing for the Lord,” Cuban Christians working with the organization reportedly told the group.
“They ordered 1,000 face masks printed with Bible verses to wear and hand out,” Vernon Brewer, the CEO and founder of World Help, told Fox News. “What an incredible witness. Their faith reminds us that, even when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still at work and we can put our hope in him.”
World Help did not name any of its partners or identify them as members of any particular church. Open identification as a Christian in Cuba could result in criminal action on the part of state, making declarations like those printed on the masks a risk to the life and health of the wearers. Like in other communist countries, notably China and North Korea, Christians often also tend to align with human rights and pro-democracy activists.
Among the most prominent examples of this is the dissident group Ladies in White, made up of the wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of political prisoners. For nearly two decades, the group’s sole act of defiance against the regime has been to wear white, carry the photos of their loved ones, and attend Catholic Mass every Sunday in silence. The Castro regime has practically banned them from churches and arrests group members every Sunday on a regular basis. The group’s leader, Berta Soler, faces as many as four violent arrests a month.
Another prominent example of this repression is the arrest and sentencing of Pastor Ramón Rigal and wife Ayda Expósito for homeschooling their children. Cuba uses its schools as indoctrination centers, teaching children to worship the Communist Party and abide by its mandates; homeschooling is considered an act against the state. Rigal was sentenced last year to two years in prison for “acts against the normal development of minors;” Expósito was convicted of the same crime but faced only a year and a half in prison.
Cuban authorities released Expósito to make room in prisons to help prevent the rapid spread of the Chinese coronavirus, but Rigal remains behind bars at press time.
In addition to providing the couple no due process or adequate time to prepare a defense, Cuban state police arrested an independent journalist, Roberto Quiñones Haces, for attempting to cover the trial. Quiñones marked seven months in prison this month.
Christians have nonetheless attempted to continue offering aid on the island through the ongoing Chinese coronavirus disaster, which Cuban officials exacerbated by inviting tourists to the island and welcoming cruise ships as late as March; the pandemic is believed to have begun in China in November, but China waited until late January to alert the world and even then claimed the coronavirus was not contagious from human to human. Cuban officials also refused to shut down schools, noting their pivotal function to ensure generations of communist rule, and demanded parents send children in with soap and water, both of which are exceedingly rare on the island.
Cuba only recently began recommending the use of masks, but has not distributed them, instead requesting Cubans make them on their own.
Among the churches pitching in to help during the pandemic is the Christian Reform Church, Diario de Cuba reported, offering food and other basic items to those in need.
“In some communities, we have had to hand out raw goods and in others distribute money, as there are places where there is no food to buy in large quantities, Yordanys Díaz, the president of the church, told the newspaper. While community kitchens have closed, door-to-door distribution remains viable.
The communist regime claims to have documented 1,189 cases of coronavirus nationwide; 40 of those identified have died.