October 29, 2012
Cuban Christians Can Soon Travel More Freely
Loosening of visa restrictions allows more travel by religious groups.
Beginning next January, Cubans will be able to travel in and out of their island nation more easily—with just their passport and a visa from their destination country, instead of first needing to obtain permission from their government.
According to Wayne Pederson, president and CEO of HCJB Global, the change will facilitate "a circular flow of Americans and Cubans to meet not only with their families, but with their Christian family as well."
The new policy is just one of several changes made by Cuban president Raul Castro in response to "demands for change from Cubans, while also maintaining a significant measure of control." When the travel exit visa requirement ends on Jan. 13, 2013, authorized Cubans will be able to travel outside the country for up to two years without losing their citizenship rights; this is an increase over the current limit of 11 months.
In 2011, the Cuban government also made changes to allow religious organizations in the U.S. to sponsor trips to Cuba. The Latin America Working Group reported at the time: "Religious organizations now have a general license to travel to Cuba. National, regional, and local churches and church offices may travel to Cuba to engage in a full-time schedule of religious activities without applying for a license from the Treasury Department. ... This is an excellent change."
CT traveled Cuba in 2009 for a cover story on how the Communist island's improbable Christian revival is now 18 years old and growing stronger.