Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cuban dissidents credit faith for surviving prison ordeal

Cuban dissidents credit faith for surviving prison ordeal
Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Four former Cuban political prisoners recently shared how their faith
helped them survive their time in prison.

Jose Miguel Martinez, Regis Iglesias, Leonel Grave and Jesus Mustafa
recently spoke to the Catholic newspaper Alfa y Omega.

"Only God can sustain you in the prisons of Cuba," Jose Miguel Martinez
explained. While Martinez had participated in both the Legion of Mary
and Caritas, it was after his involvement in the Varela Project that he
was imprisoned.

The Varela Project works to achieve a peaceful transition to democracy
in Cuba.

"Each day we agreed to pray, each one in his cell. We read the Bible and
we shared reflections," he said. Although their activities were
temporarily prohibited by the prison guards, Martinez continued, "the
feeling of God I had inside made me ever stronger."

The case of Jesus Mustafa is unique. At the age of 66 he remembers the
first years of the "Communist revolution." "Before taking over, Castro
said that to betray the poor was to betray Christ. But when he came to
power he betrayed the poor and he betrayed Christ," Mustafa said.

Sentenced to 25 years for his membership in the Christian Liberation
Movement, Mustafa said the prison guards tried to break the will of
political dissidents. "If I did not have faith, they would have won.

"They make your life miserable," he continued, adding that if the guards
don't achieve their goals, they take their aggression out of the
dissidents' families.

"My grandson was expelled from school and isolated. They threw lead
pellets at my wife and daughter while they slept. They tried to tear
down a statue of John Paul II that I had outside the door of my home,"
Mustafa revealed.

At 34, Leonel Grave is the youngest of the four. He asked to be baptized
in the faith after John Paul II's visit to Cuba in 1998. In the short
time he has spent in exile from Cuba, Grave noted with sadness that the
churches in Spain are emptier than those in Cuba.

"In prison I prayed more because when you are isolated you sense God is
with you," he said. "In Spain I have seen more disrespect for the Church
and for God, and less people at church than in Cuba. The people are
asleep and they need to awaken to God," he added.

For his part, Regis Iglesias underscored the importance of the Varela
Project as "the boldest, most concrete and structured attempt to give
back to the nation the freedom and dignity that was taken away. We do
not want a bloodbath but rather to give voice to the people of Cuba," he

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