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Looking death in the eye, giving blood: Christian solidarity in the aftermath of the Saratoga explosion

In Cuba, Christian associations such as the Patmos Institute or the Evangelical League offered their resources to those in need.

FEATURES AUTOR 247/Yoe_Suarez 10 DE MAYO DE 2022 11:42 h
The Saratoga Hotel before and after the explosion. / Images shared on social media via Evangélico Digital [link]Evangélico Digital[/link].

Pastor Abel Pérez Hernández ran, and he was one of the Cubans who arrived at the foot of the disaster. Part of the Hotel Saratoga, one of the most eye-catching buildings in the centre of Havana, exploded due to a gas leak, according the authorities.

“Today I saw death close to me, just as I was carrying in my arms the body of one of the people who died in the explosion”, wrote the pastor.

Before the woman died in his arms, Abel comforted her saying: “Christ was victorious on the cross of Calvary”.

“Today I discovered that I am weak! That I am more vulnerable than I thought, that I can do nothing unless God is with me”, he said.

Like him, dozens of citizens assisted the victims amidst the many debris and the chaotic atmosphere. Most of the injured and dead are employees of the tourism sector who were preparing to reopen the Saratoga after the two-year peak of Covid-19.

Cuban regime authorities quickly ruled out that the explosion was the result of “sabotage”, to which Havana lawyer Miguel Porres asked on his Twitter: “What difference does it make for the effects caused?”

The damage to the Saratoga (managed by the military conglomerate Gaesa through its hotel subsidiary Gaviota) is significant, as is the damage to other nearby buildings such as the heritage-listed Martí Theatre and El Calvario (Calvary) church, where the headquarters of the Western Baptist Convention are located.

[photo_footer] The church building of the El Calvario Baptist church, before and after the explosion of the Saratoga hotel, in La Habana. / Photos: social media vía Evangélico Digital. [/photo_footer] 

The dome of the church, one of the oldest of its kind in Latin America according to historian Carlos Sebastian Hernández, partially collapsed, which is why it was impossible to worship there this Sunday. The religious institution reported no loss of life.

Havana residents like Christian Yordanka Battle Moré donated blood at points set up by the Ministry of Public Health, the only entity on the island that manages medical services.

Yordanka, a member of an evangelical church, was moved to donate blood for the victims by the idea that “faith without works is dead”.

“None of these people know each other at all. No one officially summoned us. The PCC [Communist Party, the only legal party in Cuba] didn't give us any tasks. Nobody told us what we had to do. We just went to donate at the Blood Bank on 23rd and 2nd, to give a little of our life to anyone who needed it”, she wrote on social media with a photo of herself and several other donors.

Several civil society associations, such as the Patmos Institute or the Evangelical League of Cuba (LEC), published their condolences for the disaster and offered their resources to those in need.

“A few hours ago, it was with great sorrow that we received the news of the heavy explosion that took place today at the Saratoga hotel. It is very sad to hear of the injured, dead and missing from this explosion. Since then, we have been praying for the victims, their families and friends and for our people”, said an official statement from the LEC.

“Our heartfelt condolences to our entire nation. May God bring strength and comfort in the midst of so much pain”, it concluded. “We offer our service for whatever is needed. Our support also goes to the Baptist brethren (El Calvario church) who were affected by this explosion”.

Yoé Suárez, journalist in Cuba.




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