Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Havana, Cuba and speak with people interested in the topic of bioethics. Los Pinos Nuevos, a Protestant denomination with over 400 churches throughout the country, invited my wife and me to participate in discussions on bioethics over three days with up to twenty people involved in the educational activities of the denomination. I have been a hospital chaplain for the past seven years and have participated in bioethics from that perspective—usually in the role of supporting patients and families during very difficult times. I was very interested to hear a different culture’s perspective on these crucial matters.
This was my first time in Cuba and so I didn’t know what to expect. I tried very hard to avoid the image of the ugly American telling another culture, “Our way is the best way.” The images of Havana and its people are still in my mind—a city and people both vibrant and colorful. What I found was a group of very bright people, educated and professional, and very engaged in the topic of bioethics. Their questions reflected our shared humanity—questions about suffering and pain, issues related to the beginning of life as well as to the end of life.
Because this was only an introductory visit, I gave no formal lectures. However, with a big assist from my wife Elizabeth and her translation ability, I was able to share some important information on the image of God from John Kilner’s, Dignity and Destiny: Humanity in the Image of God. It stimulated a great deal of discussion and was very well received. For the believer, understanding that someone has the image of God influences the way we provide treatment. It gives us the opportunity not only to treat their body, but also to provide support to their spirit.
We look forward to the opportunity to return to Cuba in the not too distant future. For me, the conversation has just begun.