World News

Legal crackdown against Christians in Cuba accelerates

According to a report by the religious freedom watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide, 622 violations of freedom of religion or belief were documented last year, more than twice that of previous years.

The report released this March is called “Repression and resistance — a return to hardline tactics”. It emphasises the ways that members of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Jehovah’s Witness congregations face threats, harassment and discrimination from Cuban officials on a regular basis. Common incidents include dismissal from work and verbal and physical abuse of children at school for refusing to participate in pro-government activities.

An excerpt from the report reads: “The government continued to be particularly focused on targeting religious leaders and individuals who offered spiritual or material support to families of political prisoners. Religious leaders and their congregations who attempted to respond to humanitarian needs, which have become increasingly acute in many parts of the island, were harassed, fined, and, in many cases, saw the aid they were attempting to distribute confiscated.”

Anna Lee Stangl, co-head of advocacy at Christian Solidarity Worldwide stated: “There’s been a crackdown over the past few years as the government tries to re-establish as much control over population as possible. And with religious groups specifically, while the numbers didn’t change much from last year to this year, some specific tactics seem to grow more severe. All of the political prisoners that we’re aware of have been prevented from receiving religious visits. They cannot have a visit from a pastor or a priest. They’ve also been prevented from having Bibles and other religious literature brought to them and then definitely not allowed to participate in any kind of services within the prison”.

Religious leaders are pressured to exclude family members of political prisoners from their congregations. A church leader, whose identity has been concealed for security purposes, stated: ” I told them that I belong to a Christian, not a counter-revolutionary church. I am a believer in God and a follower of Christ. I do not belong to a counter-revolutionary alliance, but an alliance-building unity among pastors who support one another in order to serve, with greater excellence, the Cuban island. I told them that they can do with me whatever they want, but I will not stop attending church. I will give the same treatment to Christians of any denomination, as I would to any citizen, communist or not. I told them that if they want to take away my rights for having provided services, or going to church, so be it.”


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