14ymedio, Madrid, 11 December 2023 — “We are now going to pray in a special way. Come all you who need the water of life, who need forgiveness from God. Tell him, ’Father, I am coming to you. Father, I am here. I am going home.’ Come to Christ, come.” The words in Spanish, recited by a woman into a microphone, are a partial translation of those spoken moments earlier by an unknown Russian preacher. In front of a stage on the outskirts of Camagüey from where the two are speaking, thousands of attendees raise their arms and sway to the beat of an out-of-tune choir on Sunday.
Images of the event posted on social media are shocking in a country where not only were religious beliefs surpressed for decades but where any large-scale gathering is subject to the stictest government surveillance.
The “Bible Event,” as it is billed by its organizers, draws more than 10,000 people, “both Christians and non-Christians.” It was convened by several evangelical denominations including the Camagüey branches of the Baptist Church and the Assemblies of God.
“Camagüey trembles!!! “Bible Event” More than 10,000 people gather together at Cabeza de Vaca to worship the All-Powerful God, Jesus Christ. Dozens of trucks, thousands of non-Christians, hundreds of children and a great multitude of believers in Jesus Christ. Camagüey is the cradle of the next revival of our downtrodden but beloved Cuba…”
“A platform like this without state support?” asks a skeptical Aaron Ruby on social media. Someone named Keyler Fernandez, who seems to have some knowledge of the organization, replies, “A group in Ciego [de Ávila] who are not Christians rented a space that had good audio and a stage.” Ruby is not satisfied with the response and asks, “And how did they get 10,000 people to a town of 100 inhabitants? And the government didn’t ask any questions?”
In images shared by some of the attendees dozens trucks can be seen transporting participants to a site in Camagüey known as Cabeza de Vaca.
For years the Cuban government has taken a selective approach in dealing with Evangelical churches. It has harassed some religious figures such as Mario Felix Lleonart, a Baptist who currently lives in exile in the United States. A church run by Faustino Palomo and his wife, Orlis Leyva, in Santiago de Cuba was dismantled by authorities in 2020. Meanwhile, other religious groups with ties to the regime are allowed to practice their faith freely.
For example, the Council of Cuban Churches, an umbrella organization of twenty-eight different Christian groups operating on the island is openly aligned with the government.
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