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Free Trade Equals Religious Freedom for Baptists in Cuba

Baptists have been in Cuba for many years, and former President Carter’s recent visit to the communist island has brought renewed attention to their presence.

Denton Lotz, Baptist World Alliance general secretary, sent Carter a letter before he made the high-profile visit—the first since 1959 by any sitting or former <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />U.S. president.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
“I sent Cater a letter encouraging him to visit our Baptist churches,” Lotz told EthicsDaily.com. Although Carter, a long-time Baptist, did not make it to the Baptist churches, Lotz said the trip by the president-turned-diplomat was valuable.
“As Christians we need to make a prophetic move to encourage openness and freedom for our brothers and sisters in other countries,” Lotz said. “I feel like open trade and normal relations with the United States would encourage religious freedom.”
Lotz pointed out that the United States relates to much more oppressive regimes like Vietnam, China and others.
In 1988, Lotz met with Cuban President Fidel Castro about shipping Bibles into the country.
“We have sent 50,000 Bibles since that meeting with the help of the United Bible Society,” Lotz said. “And the number of churches has doubled in spite of religious restrictions.”
Lotz added that although there are religious restrictions, there are many thriving Baptist churches in Cuba. Three conventions, (soon to be four) with more than 400 churches are members of BWA. Baptists represent one of the larger Christian groups on the island, Lotz said.
As the attention surrounding Carter’s recent Cuban visit dies down, so too might churches’ interest in the small island. But not for BWA.
“This is not a new project for us,” Lotz said. “We have a very open and positive relationship with our member bodies in Cuba.”
For more information about what BWA is doing in Cuba visit www.bwanet.org!