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Pastor: Post-Castro generations to suffer

MIAMI (BP)–The challenges that Christians face in Cuba likely will continue after Fidel Castro steps down, a Baptist Hispanic leader told Baptist Press Feb. 21.

“The generations after Castro will carry problems and frustrations that only the Gospel will resolve,” said Cuba native Heberto Becerra, immediate past president of the National Fellowship of Hispanic Southern Baptist Churches and pastor of First Baptist Church in Plantation, Fla.

Baptists are ministering “in the middle of problems and difficulties,” Becerra said, and quite likely “[it] is going to continue like that.” Fidel Castro’s exit, Becerra noted, will not be the lone factor in ending religious oppression in Cuba.

Becerra said he returned to Cuba three years ago “to preach and also to visit my elderly mother. Those were days of great remembrances and opportunities to preach the Word. Now is easier than 30 years ago,” Becerra said of the Cuba’s less-strident stance against evangelicals in recent years.

Becerra said Cuba’s Christians “pray and hope for a change that facilitates the preaching of the Word” in Cuba, where, for example, preaching in public venues remains prohibited.

“My prayer is that any change won’t cause a greater problem,” Becerra added.

Becerra came to the United States nearly 30 years ago. He was a pastor in Cuba who also had served as president of the Baptist Convention in Cuba for four years. “I was the first in my family who came to the Lord,” he added.

Prior to his current pastorate in Florida, Becerra led a church in Manhattan, N.Y.

Castro, 81, ended his nearly 49 years of rule prior to Sunday’s meeting of Cuba’s National Assembly, which is expected to turn the presidency over to his 76-year-old brother, Raul, the country’s defense minister and acting head of state. Fidel Castro has been out of the public eye and in declining health since undergoing stomach surgery in July 2006.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.