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Peacemaker shares challenges and rewards of serving Christ in Cuba

October 12, 2016

While the US and Cuban governments have only recently reestablished diplomatic ties, the Presbyterian Church has continually maintained a relationship between the two countries. Congregations will get an idea how that has progressed this month when the 2016 class of International Peacemakers visits the United States.

Dianet de la Caridad Martinez Valdes

Dianet de la Caridad Martinez Valdes

Among the speakers is Dianet de la Caridad Martinez Valdes of Cuba. Dianet is a lifelong Presbyterian who holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and French from the University of Las Villas in Santa Clara, Cuba.

She is currently the chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of Cuba, an ecumenical organization of young people working to provide leadership training, critical reflection, and faithful service. She is also in the midst of her theological studies at the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas.

“I am also a member of the Executive Committee of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), a global organization of which the Student Christian Movement is a part of,” said Dianet. “WSCF connects us as a global network of young people sharing our dreams and our struggles for peace and justice.”

“I collaborate with different cultural exchange programs promoted by the Centre of Social and Educative Services in Varadero,” she said. “These programs promote an approach to the Cuban reality from the different sectors of the Cuban civil society with which the Cuban church and the ecumenical movement are articulated.”

One of the challenges Dianet faces is how to reach young people in an aging culture. “The conditions of economic instability that characterized the national scenario make many young people continue to seek a life outside of Cuba and therefore do not feel motivated to participate in the socioeconomic process,” she said. “Youth work is a constant challenge for the church and the Cuban society.”

Dianet says the church and ecumenical movement can open a new opportunity for Cuban youth who face apathy, consumerism, individualism, and competition. But despite those and other challenges, Dianet says she finds many rewards in her work.

“First, to have a sense for my life, to participate actively with responsibility and capacity of transformation in the social and church context,” she said. “It is wonderful to count on spaces for ecumenical and intercultural learning.”

Dianet says she has a lot to tell congregations in the United States.

“I will be sharing my life experience from the contextual realities and challenges that we have ahead in Cuba as a church and ecumenical movement,” she said. “This includes how the church and Cuban people have developed a mission in the midst of adversities and limitations, how it is essential for us moving forward.”

Dianet is hopeful the visit this month will strengthen the relationship between the two countries’ churches.

“I feel that in such an important moment in the relations between our two governments, the church must continue being a model of relationship based on mutual respect, justice, peace, dialogue, and solidarity,” she said. “With this visit, I hope to be able to share and raise awareness of the culture, church, and social life in Cuba, to learn about American society, to acquire new work experiences, particularly in youth work, to grow in faith as a universal church, and to strengthen our spirituality from the daily sharing with families and congregations.”

Dianet and the other speakers are scheduled to visit churches and presbyteries through October 17.

Other Peacemakers are from:

  • Colombia
  • Hungary
  • Iran
  • Israel/Palestine
  • Kenya
  • Niger
  • South Sudan
  • Syria
  • Uruguay

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has been inviting leaders from partner denominations and organizations to visit the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for more than 30 years. Nearly 60 countries have been represented by the speakers as they travel to churches, synods, and presbyteries.

Rick Jones, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Today’s Focus: Cuba

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Mission Co-Workers:

Choon Lim, South Korea
Yen Hee Lim, South Korea
Barbara Nagy, Malawi
Elmarie Parker, Lebanon
Scott Parker, Lebanon
Jo Ella Holman, Dominican Republic

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Michael Hilliard, PPC
Mark Hinds, PMA

Let us pray

Heavenly father, your unconditional love inspires us to be loving, welcoming, and hospitable to our neighbors. Pour into our hearts your compassion; strengthen and guide us as we go forth to make your kingdom tangible. Grant us your peace and surround us with your presence. Amen.

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 15; 147:1-11
First Reading Hosea 13:1-3
Second Reading Acts 27:9-26
Gospel Reading Luke 9:1-17
Evening Psalms 48; 4

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