Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Repression of Religious Minorities

Repression of Religious Minorities / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada
Translator: M. Ouellette, Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

The levels of intimidation and repression of religious freedom on the
island are the highest since 1980, according to a report by Christian
Solidarity Worldwide, published in May 2012.

Their report documents a total of forty religious freedom violations in
different regions of Cuba and compares them to those from previous years.

Benedict XVI's visit to the island in March 2012 caused a strong display
of security which prevented defenders of human rights and pro-democracy
activists, many of them practicing Catholics, from attending the events
of the papal visit. Because of this, hundreds of Cubans were jailed or
imprisoned in their own houses through police harassment.

The report highlights the case of people like the Lady in White Caridad
Caballers, who was regularly prevented from attending religious
services, especially Sunday mass. Her family has been the victim of
verbal and physical abuse and, in spite of relying on the support of
religious leaders in their community, some family members have not been
able to make their first communion.

The report illustrates the pressure that the government exercises over
some religious groups to expel leaders who are not in agreement with the

Many congregations belonging to the Western Baptist Convention have been
threatened with church closures and the confiscation of vehicles and
other goods.

They mention the case of pastor Omar Gude Pérez, who was condemned to
six and a half years in prison and was freed in 2001. He is prevented
from leaving the country in spite of the fact that the United States has
granted political asylum to him, his wife, and his children.

Marriage of religious groups works to disclose the persecution of the
Apostolic Movement, a network of churches constantly attacked by the

The report highlights an increase in physical aggression against
pastors, as well as the brutality used. The pattern repeats in every
case: victims have been leaders of small denominations that don't have a
support network and are found in isolated places.

Local security agents are responsible for the beatings, but since they
have never been investigated, it is suspected that they rely on the
backing of the government.

Last week, Cuban religious leaders gave testimony before the
Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus in the United
States and members of the United States Commission on International
Religious Freedom, and prepared a petition to include Cuba on the list
of Countries of Particular Concern in relation to religious freedoms,
according to the Capitol Hill Cubans blog.

Translated by: M. Ouellette

June 25 2012

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