In April 1961, I was about to graduate from high school. Seniors were given a school day to hold a beach party. What I remember most about that day, however, was listening to a portable radio as Cuban paramilitary forces supported (somewhat) by the CIA invaded their island and were repulsed at the Bay of Pigs.
This set the stage for the Cuban missile confrontation with the Soviet Union when some of my friends in the National Guard were mobilized and positioned to Florida and we watched to see how our young President Kennedy would deal with the crisis. Since then, the governments of the United States and Cuba have agreed to disagree and watch each other warily across a narrow stretch of water.
Today, President Obama is in Cuba, attempting to reopen relations with our neighbor. He was not even born when this division began, so he can bring a fresh perspective to the relationship. This is a good thing. To all reports, the Cuban people desire a closer relationship with their US neighbors, and many Americans—especially business people—reciprocate.
Many oppose this initiative, especially those Cuban Americans who fled from the Communist regime. I understand their concerns, but when we find ourselves working alongside former enemies in Germany, Japan, and even Vietnam on cultural and economic initiatives, we should understand that the only way to overcome division is to enter into meaningful dialogue.
We should not forget that many Christians—including Alliance Baptists and American Baptists—have worked to keep lines of communication open with believers in Cuba during this embargo. As believers, we certainly want to stand alongside our Cuban brothers and sisters, maintaining dialogue, offering support, and encouraging free exercise of religious faith.