Cuba ranks 37th on the Open Doors 2022 World Watch List, the report that the international organization dedicates every year to the siege against Christians in the world, and which lists the 50 countries where the situation is more dangerous.
“Since 2012, Cuba has not entered the list implemented by Open Doors, with decades of work monitoring violence against believers of the Christian faith, from Catholics to Protestants in its most diverse expressions,” explained the writer and journalist Yoe Suárez, specialized in religious freedom in Cuba.
“Several parameters have been evaluated, such as the access of believers to the media, which is prohibited in Cuba, not only for believers,” he said.
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“In addition, arrests, the demolition of temples and other attacks against Churches have been taken into account and this year, as in previous years, the impossibility of believers has been seen to build new places of worship, even to repair those that already had”, pointed out the communicator of evangelical affiliation.
The investigation highlights the increase in violence on the island against Christians and describes as "very high" the persecution of parishioners and their leaders, whom it considers to be their antagonists.
"The regime considers the churches as opponents, sees in them one of the main threats, even more lethal than that of the traditional opposition groups themselves," said the Cuban pastor living in the US Mario Félix Lleonart, director of the Patmos Institute, which observes and documents religious behavior on the Island.Read also
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“The system does not trust churches that do not have legal recognition, nor those that do. Because he knows from experience that, in Poland, the Catholic Church or, in Romania, the Protestant and Orthodox denominations, played an important role in the final fall of those totalitarian and communist regimes in Eastern Europe”, explained Lleonart.
“Most of the religious associations that are currently registered are so because they already existed before 1959 and, little by little, others have been allowed to legalize themselves, but ensuring that they are related to the regime, or that they do not represent some kind of competition on the ideological level for the Communist Party of Cuba and other associated organizations,” said Suárez.
“And the worst happens to religious organizations that are not registered in the Registry of Associations: there are arrests of pastors: a pastor imprisoned from the Monte de Sion Church, in the province of Santiago de Cuba; Pastor Lorenzo Rosales, who went out to accompany the people of Palma Soriano, on July 11, during the protests against socialism in that eastern town, ”he said.
Among the main drivers of harassment, the California-based entity lists dictatorial paranoia, communist oppression and secular bigotry coerced by state and party officials and pressure groups, including mobs.
The compilation emphasizes the increase in control by the authoritarian government, pointing out that it has used the restrictions imposed by the pandemic to weaken Christian groups in various provinces.
“The pandemic gave the dictatorship the total excuse to repress the churches. The dictatorship took advantage of all means to try to limit the Church and, in many aspects, a thriving church, with enormous growth but which was drastically slowed down by the arrival of the pandemic wielded to repress. And, added to this, the process called ordering or reordering, which also came to join this lethal formula to also try to suffocate, from an economic point of view, the churches”, added the reverend, based in Washington, DC.
The Open Doors exposé denounces that, during the COVID-19 crisis, “many church leaders organized the distribution of basic supplies and emergency aid” to the poorest neighborhoods. Those who do not belong to the Council of Churches of Cuba (CIC) were, many times, "hindered by the authorities and threatened with arrest for such activities."
“Several pastors were detained during the year for 11 J. But also for other reasons, for example, Pastor Alain Toledano, for officiating services when there was already certain permissibility on the part of the regime for certain activities that were vital to him the economy or ideologically related ”, Suárez agreed.
The NGO bases the place occupied by Cuba in its world ranking with examples of violations of the rights of religious in the period of 2021, such as the attack with stones against the pastoral house of the Missionary Church, headed by Yoel Demetrio, who it belongs to the Apostolic Movement, a network of evangelical churches that the State refuses to legalize.
Likewise, the document, based on the period from November 2020 to September 2021, highlights that, given the growing discontent of the population and the violations of human rights against government critics, fewer and fewer representatives of the Catholic and Evangelical Church remain silent and that the crisis has led to greater unity between the different Christian communities.
The fundamental principles of the Christian faith contradict the totalitarian and repressive methods used by the regime to stay in power. Therefore, religious freedom is limited, especially when Christians challenge the ruling party by speaking up and questioning the ideology of the system, the report says.
“The truth is that it is very sad that Cuba is on a list of this type. However, it is comforting to know that the work to raise awareness of the repression against religious freedom has been heard by institutions as prestigious as Open Doors. In fact, there is a lot of information offered by civil society groups and by the independent press”, affirmed the young author.
Radio Martí tried to contact Open Doors on several occasions without receiving a response.