Monday, August 25, 2014

Cuba cracks down on Christians

Cuba cracks down on Christians
Posted Aug. 25, 2014, 11:30 a.m.

Cuba's communist government has increased its oppression of religious
institutions, according to a Christian watchdog group, with reports of
religious liberty violations almost doubling in the last six months.

According to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW),
there were 170 religious freedom violations from the start of 2014
through mid-July. In 2013, there were only 180 incidents documented.
This year's violations included government authorities beating pastors
and lay workers, dragging politically dissident women away from Sunday
services, and enforcing arbitrary detentions, church closures, and
demolitions, CSW said.

Todd Nettleton, with Voice of the Martyrs, agreed that government
persecution is on the rise in Cuba.

"It does seem like the government is paying more attention to the
churches and making much of a concerted effort to control religious
expression in Cuba," Nettleton said. Although the government has not
given a reason for the crackdown, Nettleton suggested President Raul
Castro could be more hostile to Christianity than his brother, or more
aware of it. The government might also be looking at the church and
sensing a need to assert control.

While the government of the once-atheist country is communist, Cuba's
constitution claims to allow religious freedom: "The State recognizes,
respects, and guarantees religious liberty." But that right, as well as
others, are ignored if the government claims they conflict with
communism, CSW said.

Article 62 of the Cuban constitution declares: "No recognized liberty
may be exercised against the existence and aims of the socialist State
and the nation's determination to build socialism and communism."

The Cuban Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) has authority over all
religious groups in Cuba and it has a "consistently antagonistic
relationship" with many of those groups, CSW notes in its report.
Roughly 56 percent of Cubans identify as Christian, according to
Operation World.

CSW said most of the cases of women being detained and forced to miss
church were Roman Catholics and Ladies in White, a political dissident
group made up of women related to political prisoners.

Churches also are often pressured and threatened by the government to
expel congregants the government considers political dissidents.
Churches that resist "are under constant and intrusive government
surveillance," CSW said. Roman Catholic priest Jose Conrado Rodriguez
Alegre's refusal to shun individuals the government wants to keep
socially isolated led to the state installing video cameras to watch his
home and church. His email accounts have also been blocked.

CSW said protestant leaders are often threatened with having their
churches closed if they refuse to expel and shun certain people.
Government reprisals also have included frozen bank accounts, harassment
and violence.

Cuban Christians live with the daily threat that everything, including
their educational opportunities and employment, could be taken away,
Nettleton said. Students could be kicked out of school without cause,
flunked even if they have straight A's, or be refused the diploma they
earned. They are constantly pressured to leave the church and follow the
government, Nettleton said.

Since 1959, the Cuban government has planted informants within churches
and religious groups to report anything critical of the state or deemed

Source: WORLD | Cuba cracks down on Christians | Julia A. Seymour | Aug.
25, 2014 -

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