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Peacemaker to share challenges and rewards of serving Christ in Cuba

Youth, labor rights and discrimination highlight issues to be discussed this fall

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

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Dianet de la Caridad Martinez Valdes. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – While the U.S. and Cuban governments have only recently re-established diplomatic ties, the Presbyterian Church has continually maintained a relationship between the two countries. Congregations will get an idea how that has progressed next month when the 2016 class of International Peacemakers visits the U.S.

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 languages from the University of Las Villas in Santa Clara, Cuba.

She is currently the chairperson of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) 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 socio-economic 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 that face apathy, consumerism, individualism and competition. She says other challenges include the promotion of labor rights in the growing private sector, discrimination now accentuated by the economic crisis, such as internal migration, sexual orientation and race.

But despite the 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 when she visits the U.S. this fall.

“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 mist of adversities and limitations, how it is essential for us moving forward.”

Dianet is hopeful the visit next month will continue to strengthen the relationship between the church in both the U.S. and Cuba.

“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 from September 23 to October 17. Other peacemakers will be coming 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. As many as 57 countries have been represented by the speakers as they travel to churches, synods and presbyteries.

Click here for more information about the 2016 Peacemakers.


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