I rarely comment here on world events, but this one has me excited and hopeful. The presidents of the United States and Cuba have met in Panama and pretty much sealed the deal (pending congressional approval) for a renewal of diplomatic relations between their two countries. Hopefully this will open the door to greater freedom of travel and trade between the countries. But most importantly, I believe it will pave the way toward greater freedom in Cuba–especially freedoms of religion and speech.
I have something of a personal history in this matter. Let me explain.
When I was a child my uncle and aunt were missionaries in Cuba. My parents planned a family trip there to visit them. My brother and I were all excited to go. We rarely took trips anywhere outside of our upper Midwest region. The year was 1960 or 1961 (I don’t remember which). Then came the bad news. My uncle was being forced out of Cuba and travel there was being shut down. We didn’t go because of the revolution and gradual turn toward communism in Cuba.
Then came the “Cuban Missile Crisis” through which I lived. Our television (we had one then) was on day and night–tuned to news as fear grew that war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was imminent. We had “drills” in school where we crawled under our desks and sat in hallways covering our heads with our hands–as if any of that would do any good in case of a nuclear war! We knew where our nearest “fallout shelter” was located. My parents, being dispensational fundamentalists, were torn about this impending catastrophe. They expected the “rapture” at any moment but feared greatly for our “unsaved loved ones.” I was just scared.
Over the years since then I have come to believe that the U.S.’s treatment of Cuba, once the Soviet Union pulled out its missiles, was misguided. The best way to ensure democracy and freedom in Cuba or anywhere is travel and trade–exchange of ideas in person. I have long believed our American embargo on travel to and trade with Cuba is both unreasonable and unhelpful. For one thing, as Americans, we should have the right to travel anywhere. Our government’s restriction of travel to Cuba is itself a loss of freedom.
I definitely do not agree with the Cuban government’s restrictions on personal property, entrepreneurship, full and free worship and religious practice, and one party rule. On the other hand, I believe the best way to undermine all of that is for Americans to flood into Cuba as tourists, business people, and missionaries. I predict once that happens the social order in Cuba will change resulting in greater freedoms for the Cuban people.
Maybe someday, God willing, I will get to take that trip to Cuba that eluded me as a child. I am only sorry that my dear uncle who founded many churches in Cuba has passed away and will not see this dramatic development or get to go back there.