Cuba and Theological Education: Between Crisis and Hope
Today Cuba is facing the worst economic crisis since the 1990s, exacerbated by the extraterritorially applied sanctions of the previous administration of the U.S. government and the inclusion of Cuba in the list of terrorist countries.
In these complex circumstances, one of our Global Ministries’Partners in Cuba, the Evangelical Seminary of Theology (SET), reports on how the Cuban government decided to develop and gradually implement an “Economic-Social Strategy” to boost the economy and face the global crisis caused by COVID-19.” The Strategy was implemented in January of 2021. The Strategy aims to respond to the accumulation of structural problems in the economy and monetary and exchange unification challenges, finding the appropriate tools to face them. The Strategy announces with sufficient clarity two processes that will be strengthened in the coming periods: dollarization and advancement of the private and cooperative sector. As of January 2021, salaries and pensions also increased. In the short term, the implementation of this Economic-Social Strategy has caused many shortages and long adaptation. The country is experiencing high prices of food, medicines, products, and services, especially those concerning transport, communications, electricity, gas, and so forth. It has also caused consequent inflation; the current situation is added to the global crisis caused by COVID-19.
The actual crisis has affected institutions of the ecclesial sector. They are concerned about the sustainability of churches and ecclesial institutions and the increase in essential services. This situation directly affects SET, as well. Since the financial capacity of 95% of its income depends on the outside, only 5% can satisfy the entity’s own contributions. With these own contributions, SET has covered the salaries of the employees and other services. In 2020, the own gifts were fulfilled at 45% of what was planned. After a year almost in quarantine, in January 2021, it was necessary to return to isolation and the cessation of the face-to-face modality of teaching at the SET headquarters in Matanzas and Havana. A new, more aggressive wave of the COVID-19 disease is being experienced, almost completely immobilizing the country.
SET is an indispensable institution for the church’s mission in Cuba and inserted in the Cuban context. Its students and professors promote contemporary theological-ecumenical thought, so necessary to face the challenges of the mission of the church. When religious fundamentalism grows in Cuba, it is essential that SET adapt its programs to this new context. The SET currently has a great responsibility to support and accompany the churches’ mission and actively participate in transforming Cuban society towards the values of the reign of God, “…justice, peace, and joy in the Spirit Holy.” (Romans 14:17).
The development of ecumenical theological education would not be possible without using the new information and communication techniques provided by the Internet and social networks for this use. SET believes that it is necessary to maintain and increase the services implemented through these tools for teaching work. Both teachers and students can update and raise their knowledge. SET is actually developing online courses to promote the theological-spiritual improvement of men and women in ministry. Those tools will promote awareness of problems in society and integral growth of the churches, and a sense of educated laity, to better witness an incarnated faith and hope in the Cuban context. At this moment, professors are teaching from home and assigning readings and specific materials using technology (telephone calls, electronic messaging, WhatsApp, and other social networks). SET envisions to guarantee Internet and email services to teachers, students, and workers at the center. Its plan is to distribute Smartphones for teachers, to equip them with the needed data storage and hard drives for the server at SET. It is our solidarity, as churches in the U.S. and Canada, that could provide spiritual accompaniment through our prayers and resources for our friends in Cuba. Let us accompany them to develop theological education in these troubled times.
Learn more about the work of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Cuba here. To make a gift in support of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Cuba, you may do so here.