The “26th of July Movement” was the revolutionary organization led by Fidel Castro (with Raul Castro, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos) that overthrew the U.S. backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba by the end of 1958. Initially, the revolution was supported by the church (“Social justice, yes; communism, no!”) which was overwhelmingly Roman Catholic (72% of Cubans declared themselves to be Catholic, but only 24% actually attended mass on a regular basis). By 1960, the revolution showed its true intentions. Fidel Castro, enjoying his enormous popularity with the masses, declared that there would be no free elections…for “the people already decided”.
Cuba aligned itself with the Soviet Union and declared itself Atheistic…the diplomatic and economic war with the United States began. Castro proclaimed that the church was dead.
Churches were closed, property was nationalized, pastors were taken to rehabilitation camps and foreign missionaries were deported. In addition, printing Christian literature was prohibited and Bibles were not allowed to enter the country. Christians were discriminated against in seeking employment. Great limitations were imposed on Christian gatherings and approval by the government was required for any religious activity.
“Hasta la Victoria Siempre”, Che Guevara’s rallying cry during the revolution (“to victory always”; “never give up”), ironically characterized the fledgling evangelical movement during that time…but with this movement, resistance and advancement was in the power of the Holy Spirit! The Apostle Paul boldly proclaimed, “We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9)
Castro’s decision to suppress the church…declaring it to be dead…actually planted the seeds for growth…explosive growth! The few public churches that were allowed to remain open began meeting every night of the week to accommodate the crowds. The lack of meeting space unified the believers and created the house church movement which began multiplying exponentially.
A spirit of prayer and evangelistic zeal persisted and spread across the country. While other pastors and religious leaders were fleeing the country, the pastors of Los Pinos Nuevos stood firm…not one of them defected!
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)