Cuba bars ministry from distributing NIV Bibles

The Cuban government has barred a U.S.-based ministry from sending NIV Bibles.Pixabay/cocoparisienne

Cuba put an end to its ban on printing new Bibles in 2015, but the Communist government is still not allowing modern translations of the text to enter the country.

According to a recent report from Mission Network News, Christian ministry Biblica has been sending New International Version Bibles to churches in Cuba in their native tongue. However, when the ministry's partner in Miami sent a shipment containing 17,000 Bibles in 2016, the government prevented its distribution and sent it back to the U.S.

Esteban Fernandez, Biblica's Area executive director in Latin America, said that the government refuses to allow NIV Bibles to enter the country and will only allow older versions similar to the English King James Version.

Biblica, established in 1809, holds the copyright to the NIV Bible, which some say is much easier to read compared to older translations.

"We think that we need something really strong, easy to go from the head to the heart of the people," Fernandez said, according to Mission Network News.

Apart from the lack of modern Bible translations, Cubans still do not have enough Bibles to go around.

"Many in Cuba are sharing one Bible for every six people in the group. Can you imagine that—having one Bible? Comparing that with the U.S. where we have an average of two Bibles per household," Fernandez said.

"When you share the Bible, if you can see their faces and their tears on their faces [when] receiving the Bible, it's incredible," he added.

The Communist Party has ruled Cuba since 1959 when Marxist leader Fidel Castro overthrew the government of dictator Fulgencio Batista.

The number of Christians in the country increased after the government amended its Constitution in 1992 to declare Cuba as a secular state that would partially allow religious activities, rather than an entirely atheist state.

The regime implemented some economic and political reforms after Raul Castro succeeded his brother Fidel in 2008, but there are concerns around religious repression remain. A report released by the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide said there were 325 cases of religious freedom violations in the country in 2017.

In 2015, the Cuban government began allowing the printing and distribution of new Bibles for the first time since 1959.

Biblica had already sent 33,000 Bibles to Cuba and the 2016 shipment would have brought the total number to 50,000.