Julio Cuestas is a Cuban artist who works to promote community development through art. His poetry has earned him recognition time and time again, but he is more than just a poet—he is also a member of a peacemakers’ network established by the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, Cuba to promote civic engagement in Cuban society.
Julio explains that Cuban society is facing a great loss of values as a result of the social, economic, and spiritual involution process that the entire country has suffered over the years.
“As a Quaker, I am called to take action to help my neighbors to get involved in peace culture and conflict transformation,” he says. “I feel that the Cuban Quaker Institute for Peace is a door God opened to fulfill the purpose he has for my life.”
Cuban society has been suffering from an economic crisis characterized by low incomes and shortages of food and other basic resources, which have led to personal and family conflict. As Julio says, these conditions make peace culture and conflict transformation difficult, but at the same time highlight the need for it.
“Cuba is an extremely institutionalized country, there is way too much bureaucracy and paperwork that has to be done to implement any kind of community-based project or initiative,” he says. “However, I feel great satisfaction from this kind of work because conflict transformation is not only about filling our lives with light as Quaker peace testimony, but it’s also about engaging community members in different activities to show that when people work joined by love, changes are possible.”
Julio also expresses how the workshops and trainings held by the Cuban Quaker Institute for Peace have become a key element to promote peace-building in Cuban society. AFSC supported the institute’s establishment, and is now exploring how a partnership between the two organizations can help understand and reduce violence in Cuba’s cities.
Julio considers the institute to be a pioneer in promoting tools and knowledge that help community members take action and play an active role in their development.
Communities where he has had the chance to replicate this knowledge have shown the benefits: People now face conflict as an opportunity and are trying to solve conflicts in a loving and peaceful way, showing that they understand that conflict is necessary for communities to grow and evolve.
“It is through projects of love such as this one that many of us stop being like Saul of Tarsus and we become like Paul for God´s Salvation purposes, because our testimony of love and peace in Jesus Christ allows other community members to know their value as human beings.”
Versos de fuego
No se aturde el poeta que ahora canta
En dolores que parten del silencio
El amor es el fruto con que avanzas
En Jesús por las puertas que abre el Cielo
Voy siendo lo que Dios quiere de mí
Una pulpa de espíritu ensanchado
Un aliento de luz para almas grises
Una tierra plantada en aguas densas
Voy siendo en Cristo lo que estoy en Él
Un molde de esas luces traspasantes
Que invita a no hacer sombras ni en la noche
Y cala en la sonrisa que eres tú
Voy siendo el amor que en el Espíritu
Comparto luces con almas cautivas
Y tiemblo en las semillas de los lirios
Donde florece el alma en libertad