Sunday, June 21, 2015

Still a long way from religious freedom in Cuba

Still a long way from religious freedom in Cuba
June 19 2015

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an organization that has been
researching and advocating on concerns related to freedom of religion or
belief in Cuba for years, welcomed the June 2 World article "Religion
reawakens under Cuba's thumb," especially the attention given to the
diversity of religious groups in Cuba and the restrictions they face.

While the religious panorama there is more complex than in other parts
of Latin America, it is important to point out that the presence of
Protestant denominations, or "evangelicals" as they are referred to in
the article, is not new. The island is home to a strong, diverse and
historic Protestant population. Many of these government-recognized
denominations, including the Methodists mentioned, continue to report
heavy government interference, not just regarding house churches, which
proliferated largely because of government refusals to allow the
construction of all but a handful of church buildings over the past 50
years, but also in regard to historic properties.

The Yaguajay Baptist Church, affiliated with the Western Baptist
Convention, was informed in 2012 by the government of the retroactive
"nationalization" of its property, supposedly in 1980. Just last month
the Maranatha First Baptist Church in Holguin, affiliated with the
Eastern Baptist Convention, was informed by Communist Party officials
that the property on which the church has been sitting since 1947 now
belongs to the government and that it will be obligated to pay rent and
submit activities for approval. Also last month, a case was filed on
behalf of the Rev. Yiorvis Bravo Denis with the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights regarding the 2013 arbitrary expropriation by
the government of his home, which also serves as a church affiliated
with the Apostolic Movement network, which the government has refused to

On the other hand, while it is true that the Catholic Church has
received some benefits not extended to other groups and linked to the
rapprochement between Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the government, these
benefits have not necessarily trickled down to the rank and file. Each
week scores of women across the country, and some men, are violently
arrested and detained to prevent them from attending Mass, and local
priests and bishops are often forced to directly confront state security
agents in an effort to preserve their churches as institutions that are
open to all. The trends over the past few years seem to indicate that as
religious groups flourish, a government that above all else seeks to
exert social control over its population will continue to crack down
behind the scenes even as it seeks to convince the outside world that it
respects freedom of religion or belief.

Kiri Kankhwende, London

The writer is press officer of Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Source: Still a long way from religious freedom in Cuba - The Washington
Post -

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