Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC

Castro Meets With Evangelical Leaders
Havana Television Service
BRS Assigned Document Number:    000006360
Report Type:         Daily Report             AFS Number:     FL1004190090
Report Number:       FBIS-LAT-90-070          Report Date:    11 Apr 90
Report Series:       Daily Report             Start Page:     4
Report Division:     CARIBBEAN                End Page:       8
Report Subdivision:  Cuba                     AG File Flag:   
Classification:      UNCLASSIFIED             Language:       Spanish
Document Date:       10 Apr 90
Report Volume:       Wednesday Vol VI No 070


City/Source of Document:   Havana Television Service

Report Name:   Latin America

Headline:   Castro Meets With Evangelical Leaders

Source Line:   FL1004190090 Havana Television Service in Spanish 0100 GMT 10
Apr 90

Subslug:   [First of two installments of President Fidel Castro's meeting with
representatives of evangelical groups and the Jewish community in
Havana on 2 April--recorded]

1.  [First of two installments of President Fidel Castro's meeting with
representatives of evangelical groups and the Jewish community in Havana on 2

2.  [Excerpts] [Castro] I have only to welcome you, and I do so with great
sincerity and great pleasure.  But we will have time to talk.  Although I do
not think there is enough time to talk about all our experiences.  I would
like, then, to give you the floor.

3.  [Raul Suarez Ramos, president of the Cuban Ecumenical Council] We would
like to express to you our joy and gratitude for the opportunity of having this
meeting.  Later on we can express other ideas, but it would be good to let
brother Orestes, our executive secretary, tell you who we are, and who we

4.  [Orestes] This is quite a large group, Commander; there are 74 of us here.
[passage omitted]

5.  [Suarez] As you can see, this group of ours is heterogeneous.  There is
no....[rephrases] We cannot speak of a unanimous attitude toward the
revolution.  We cannot say that there is a greater or lesser understanding, but
there is an element common to all of us which is solidarity with our people,
and also our love for our Cuban roots, and I would say, a recognition of what
the revolution has meant to our people.

6.  Why are we here?  Two or three months ago we conducted a survey of the
different presidents and brothers who make up the Cuban Ecumenical Council
because we felt the need, at a time like this, for the Cuban revolution as
represented by you to know that the current situation of our country is not
something distant from us, that we are not indifferent to it.  The letter we
sent to you referred to the fact that without a doubt--starting with the
rectification process, continuing throughout the crisis in Eastern Europe; the
aggressiveness of the U.S. Government toward the poor peoples, especially
toward our people and their revolution, and likewise within this situation
which you have described as a defining situation in which everyone is called
upon to define his position--we also have observed that the revolution is also
trying to define the believers and other aspects of life of our nation.

7.  Recently in your visit to Brazil you came into contact with brothers of
ours who are involved in the ecclesiastical base communities, and also with
their theological thinking, liberation theology.  In the call for the fourth
congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, Comrade Raul Castro also mentioned the
willingness of the revolution to work for national unity and also that the
revolution should eliminate any kind of discrimination, however subtle it might

8.  Moreover, our counterpart churches in the United States, Switzerland,
Europe, and other places, want to hear our voice, and all this led us to write
to you and present to you the need for a meeting with you, with the comrades of
the party and the Cuban Government.  We, the Cuban Christians, when we heard
about your meeting with the brothers in Brazil, when we saw the first
information that came out in GRANMA, we felt a slight concern.  You gave us
this open and frank opportunity to discuss this matter.  When you referred
explicity to this, you said, if in Cuba there were.... [interrupted by audience

9.  [Castro] You are very right. [Words indistinct] I also say that you are
very right. [applause] I should have thought of you all. [applause] I have to
correct this.

10.  [Suarez] I thought if I said this to you, you would have to [words

11.  [Castro] Yes, [words indistinct] very unjust, because in fact, look,
people like you should be in the party, or would be in the party.  But of
course, the injustice is that I used the other phrase.  I said: If we had
people like you....[does not finish sentence] I committed an injustice; I do
not know if it is in the Bible or wherever, but it says that you give fair pay
to sinners.  Where is that saying from?  Is it from the Bible?

12.  [Several people] No, no.

13.  [Castro] It must be from a Christian, anyway.

14.  [Suarez] We wanted, in this climate of [word indistinct], friendship, and
openness, to say this because since before the revolution there have been
brothers of ours, Christians, who have given everything for this revolution. 
And they called me, as president of the Council, and they said to me: Listen,
what can we say about this? And we informed Comrade Daniel [not further
identified] and other comrades about this, always clarifying
that....[rephrases] I imagine the pressure you were under there: so many
interviews, without sleeping, all of that.  That is, there is no
feeling....[rephrases] There is no resentment.

15.  [Castro] That was not the mechanism. (?There was no) mechanism.  You
should get the idea of this blasted mechanism out of your head.  And so I let
myself be led by the attitude others have had.  That is the problem.  I was
influenced by what they have had.  So at that time, yesterday
where....[rephrases] I might have made a mistake because I slept about 10 hours
that day. [sentence as heard] [laughter] The mechanism is in another [as
heard], with a little more contact and with a few more things.  At that meeting
we had, I talked a lot; I expressed my appreciation for the work they were
doing, so it is that.  You have done very well to say so.  It was the first
thing you had to say to me. [laughter]

16.  [Suarez] So, Commander, I would also like to express to you what we are
hoping for.  We hope that the revolution will make the changes necessary for
the development of our Cuban society, but that it will do so as you have
proposed, from a revolutionary and socialist position; because from the essence
of our evangelical, biblical faith, we understand and experience our faith
better in a socialist society--a million times better than in a capitalist
society. [applause] Our presence is an encouragement and an incentive for this
position that you have defined very clearly to our people and to the world. We
need changes, but these changes must be from a revolutionary position and
without letting up on revolutionary leadership, so these changes will truly
benefit our people.

17.  We also wish, in this spirit of frankness, that the revolution will also
be aware of the problems that at times have affected our brothers and that have
limited us in serving our people.  The concern about being party members has
never arisen from us.  There are different opinions on this, but we understand
from a just principle of social justice, of political justice, that we can be
members and that the revolution should take the revolutionary measures you
mentioned.  That is, the fact of believing in God for many of us does not limit
us from accepting the party program and participating in this with our people.

18.  But our highest aspiration, rather than being part of the political
leadership, is to be of service to our people.  That is where we want that
whole issue, which has not been the revolution's policy and has not been
understood--its thinking above all has not been understood by some middle-level
cadres--that these limitations be eliminated and that we can give ourselves
over completely to serving our people without any type of limitation.

19.  This should not be because we are Christians for we do not want that, but
rather, the same requirements should be applied to us as are applied to any
other citizen of our country: human qualities, revolutionary qualities,
dedication to the people, and loyalty to the revolution. Based on that, we
should not be limited because of the aspect of our faith. That is our highest
aspiration.  Later some brothers of ours who disagree can also talk about this.

20.  And finally, we would like to say to you that we as believers; because of
the confidence we have in our God, because of the essence of our evangelical,
biblical faith; we always think that the best is yet to come.  This is a
biblical, evangelical conviction and Marxists also have it: The best is always
yet to come.

21.  And in this sense we trust in the goodwill of the leaders of our
revolution and especially the goodwill of their revolutionary, socialist
position.  On one occasion I said: I would betray my Christian and Cuban
conscience if I did not say that we should thank God for the leader this
revolution has had, for what he has meant to our people, but also for the
contributions you have made in promoting the understanding of the relationship
between Christians and Marxists in Latin America and the entire world, and here
in our country.

22.  You have insisted from the beginning on the unity of our people and that
distinctions cannot be made between believers and nonbelievers.  You have made
a great contribution to Latin American theology, and to our theology also.  We
feel grateful for this.  We trust in our people, and that our people will
overcome all the difficulties and that we will continue moving forward.

23.  Those were the things I wanted to say in the name of our brothers.  The
revolution should know that it can count on us during this period we are
experiencing.  Inside our temples and our churches, when we are holding our
services to pray to God, our brothers pray for you, for God to give you wisdom;
so you will be more and more just, more consistent with your revolutionary
principles.  And then when we finish our activities, the next day, on Monday
morning when we are at our studies, work places, in all our activities; we
continue our prayers to God in serving our people.  For all this we feel this
afternoon very happy and very grateful to God and to you for being here, for
this meeting we are having.  [applause]

24.  [Castro] I have been very touched by your words; the comrades who are
present here have also been touched, surely.  If there is something that is
especially important in everything, it is honesty and sincerity.  And they
cannot be faked.  Either one feels that or one does not.  Not even the best
actor in the world is capable of simulating sincerity.  This sincerety can be
seen in you, in everything.  I was greeting you one by one and I heard many
kind, generous words: God bless you, and, we pray for you. These remarkes were
made with a lot of spontaneity, a lot of sincerity.

25.  But among the prayers you make you have missed one, when you told me you
prayed for me to have wisdom so I would be more and more just; that is not
right, [words indistinct].  You should have added--so that he doesn't stick his
delicate foot in his mouth. [laughter] We need so much wisdom, understanding, a
sense of justice, and care, not to make mistakes! But it is an ill wind that
blows no good to anyone.  Where did that saying come from? [laughter] One is
about fair payment for sinners, and the other is about an ill wind.

26.  [Unidentified speaker] [Words indistinct].

27.  [Castro] Very good.  Now let us give the floor to another comrade whom you
will pick out. [passage omitted]

28.  I would like a lot of people to hear things like what you are saying here,
really.  It would be wonderful.  It would (?benefit) us a lot.

29.  [Unidentified speaker] We are not afraid.

30.  [Castro] Of course.  He says you are not afraid, and I know you are not. 
It is impossible for whoever is here in this country at this time and with this
revolution to be afraid. [laughter] Believe me. One could not find another
tighter place right now, because we have almost become the enemy, as I was
saying.  We are the enemy.  They give us much greater importance than we
deserve, but the thing is that they give it to us.  And that is the reality. 
[passage omitted]

31.  [Reverend Joel Ajo] I have not brought a written, planned speech.  I am
going to speak to you in the name of the evangelical churches of Cuba.  My name
is Joel Ajo, I am a Methodist pastor and president of the Methodist Church at
this time, and vice president of the Cuban Ecumenical Council.  I am also from

32.  Really, the Cuban evangelical church has many names: Methodist, Baptist,
Pentecostal, Nazarenes, etc.; there is also one called Los Pinos Nuevos. And
this means we are an evangelical church, but with many denominations inside
this evangelical church and with many different ways of thinking.  What has
been said here is more or less what prevails in general within the church,
after the moments of definition our country has experienced, in
which...[rephrases] 1963, for example, or 1961, when the socialist nature of
the revolution developed or was defined, many people left Cuba.  But others of
us decided to stay.  In 1980, during Mariel, others left Cuba but many of us
decided to stay.  And up to today we have not thought about leaving our land;
that is, we feel happy to be Cubans, we feel a part of the Cuban people, and we
love the revolution.  It began when we were very small but we also took part in
it, carrying messages to the troops that were near the area where we lived,
because we also served as couriers at that time, when we were only 15 or 16
years old.

33.  So what happens today in our country comes very close to us. And we feel
that as the evangelical church we have a beautiful task to carry out in our
country.  It is not political; it cannot be political because we are not
politicians.  But it is evangelical, in the style of Jesus Christ; it is to
approach those who need something in order to give them something.  In our case
at this time, I would say that it is to approach you who lead our country to
tell you that we are willing to continue supporting you, backing you, that you
should take heart and continue moving forward because we see the work you are
doing as just and good.

34.  But this does not free us from also being able to say that there are
things that we understand must be changed.  I could not agree with Brother
Bermudez when he said that we did not come here to ask for anything.  Some
people said that there, and I never said I was against that, but now I do want
to say so.  Because of the freedom that, shall we say, the revolution itself
has taught us to have, and also because of the evangelical freedom of being
able to be on the Cuban Ecumenical Council but not be in agreement with all the
statements of the council present, I think that we do have to ask.

35.  A young man stood up and said: We must speak in the name of our
congregations, where there are brothers and sisters who have wanted to study in
a field like, for example psychology, and have not been able to because it has
been said that they are Christians.  We have to talk in the name of people who
on different occasions have wanted to become something, for example, hold an
important position such a post in the People's Government, but it has been
said: This guy is a Christian.

36.  We believe that the main leader of our revolution should be aware of all
this, as is Dr. Jose Felipe Carneado [head of the Religious Affairs Department
of the Central Committee], because we have told him on various occasions about
the problems we face.  And I think that at this time of definition, when the
evangelical church is saying we are staying in Cuba to continue to work for the
good of our people and to support the revolution in all the just things it is
doing, it is also the correct thing for us to say where we think we cannot go
along with it.

37.  For example, the church at this time wants to build some new churches
because the congregations are growing, and the commander should know this, the
leadership of our revolution should know this.  We have....[rephrases] It is
the express interest of many of us, and the Ecumenical Council has echoed this,
that if there is a TV Marti that wants to enter Cuba, why cannot we Christians
also have access to Cuban television; and on Channel 6, Cuba Vision, begin to
preach our evangelical messages based on noninterference in Cuba?

38.  We think this is valid.  We dream about this and we pray for this, hoping
that some day neither TV Marti--which it seems will not come in and we hope it
will not--nor the other that comes in, that you can hear, which is Radio Marti,
will have to inform the Cuban people about what the Christian faith is; but
rather that we ourselves may do this from our own concepts and our experiences
as Cubans, children of the revolution, and as Cubans who share the revolution
and support the revolution.

39.  There are a great number of aspects which the church today is dreaming
about and praying for, and we Christians are thinking about them in our base
communities.  Because also in the base communities, these actions, this process
Otoniel [not further identified] was talking about is to have everyone living
in the same nation and feeling for the same nation, be capable of joining
together in everything that is done in this country for the good of the nation,
and for the good of Cubans.

40.  So, Commander, I would like to say to you in the name of the entire
evangelical church that we hope you will keep these things very much in mind,
because they are part of what we aspire in these days to carry forward together
with the revolution's plans. And I would not like to leave everything on the
note ``we want to have'' because that would mean that the revolution has done
nothing.  I would like at least to make a small acknowledgement of a concrete
act.  Perhaps Dr. Carneado has pointed out that change to you because he is
looking at me like that.

41.  At this time, thanks to the revolution, the Methodist Church has a home
for the elderly in Marianao which is being backed 100 percent by the revolution
in food, medicine, and equipment.  It is a home that is only just now starting
up.  It has 12 beds. [corrects himself] It has 20 beds, but only 12 old people
are there.  We hope that it will be expanded, and that through this
organization we can also support the revolution, serving the elderly.  We are
thinking a little, shall we say selfishly, regarding the elderly and the
church.  But Dr. Carneado knows that someone who is not from the church already
has lived there, an elderly lady that I think you yourselves decided should go
there, or you sent her.

42.  I do not remember exactly how it was.

43.  [Unidentified speaker] She is dead now.

44.  [Ajo] She is dead now, right.  But, well, in this opening up, of being
able to say thank you, Fidel, and thank you to the revolution, we also have to
acknowledge that part in which you have permitted us to carry out a social
work.  For us, it is the first one since the triumph of the revolution that we
have carried out as the Methodist Church.  And this tells us....[rephrases]
With this we want to affirm, Commander, the faith we have in that as we are
joining together in some areas such as health, we can also join together in
others, and we are willing to meet the challenge on our part with the
evangelical church in Cuba.  Thank you. [applause] [passage omitted]

45.  [Castro] I think that the essential things have been said.  [passage
indistinct].  What I am thinking about is the reasoning. It has been used in
different things, what the worker said, not only the things that are
acknowledged, the good things; but he set forth the faults, mistakes,
deficiencies, and then I have to say some things because I am glad to have
heard it all first, to be able to add some things on my account. [passage

46.  [Hector Marquez of the Ecumenical Council] Some of us have had to adapt
because of the pressing circumstances or an onerous responsibility, and
sometimes it is difficult for us to simultaneously adapt to working in
churches, congregations, in towns in the provinces in our country, and at the
same time to have to travel, to go to and fro constantly across the Latin
American continent.  We have not always been able to meet with Christian groups
of friends as is the case with Leonardo Boff, Frei Betto, [words indistinct],
many of those who talked with you, but the opportunities we have had to
enlighten conservative sectors of churches that have good intentions but are
very badly informed.  This could be seen in the same case of Brazil, because of
the maneuvers of the transnational news companies.

47.  We have had to explain situations that occur in our country, situations
that sometimes are a little difficult for us to explain; for example, what
happened to me personally in Angola in 1982.  I met with our country's
ambassador there at his request, and when he very nicely asked me how I had
felt, I told him that frankly I felt badly because I had the opportunity to
talk to thousands of people, believers, in Angola, who went to hear the
services, and they said to me, surprised: Are there no Christian doctors in
Cuba? Of course. Are there no Christian engineers in Cuba? Are there no
Christian soldiers?  Of course, I said.  But you are the first Cuban Christian
we have seen.  So I expressed to the Cuban ambassador to Angola this concern we
had, in 1982.

48.  Also, regarding what Pastor (Juela) also stated in Brazil about 14 months
ago, we were at a very well-attended news conference.  Many of us were there. 
We spent more than an hour talking about all the positive elements of the Cuban
revolution, all the social gains in the field of medicine, health, etc.
Unfortunately, what the Brazilian newspapers took was the fact that we do not
have access to the media, which is also a reality. They took that fact and they
published it.  I remember when I arrived in Cuba, Comrade Carneado called me
for another reason and said to me: We have already seen your statements in
Brazil. I asked: The real ones or the lies? Because I knew how the press had
twisted and had used all that.

49.  Also, at this time of dialogue with you and the leadership of the
revolution, we are confident that many of these things perhaps cannot be
changed overnight, but we should continue to make an effort on both sides as
has been done recently, so that they may improve.

50.  Now I would like, in the name of the denomination I head, the Reformed
Presbyterian Church, which this year will complete 100 years of work in our
country, it is celebrating its centennial....[changes thought] I have received
very strong criticism from some Cubans who left and they say that we are
inventing this centennial to play down the American missionaries, which is not
true.  This is something that has been proven historically.

51.  But as an autonomous church we have the right to invite to our celebration
whomever we want, and we want to...[rephrases] We know of your many concerns,
but we want to invite you to the celebration of our centennial because you are
the head of state of this country where we live; you are the president of this
country, and as Cuban Presbyterians we invite you and we have the right to
invite whomever we consider appropriate.  Therefore, please accept our
invitation to the ceremonies of our centennial, which will be in Santa Clara in
July this year.  [applause] [passage omitted]