Cuban pastor to be evicted; Report reveals sharp rise in religious liberty violations

Religious Freedom in Cuba report

Pressure on religious leaders in Cuba has increased significantly over the past year according to a new report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). Comprehensive evidence within the document details a sharp rise in religious liberty violations there.

Independent church leaders from the fast growing Apostolic Movement have been particularly targeted for harassment, detentions and court summons by the Government.

Last week Pastor Mario Alvarez, the Havana based leader of a church affiliated with Apostolic Movement, was informed by government officials that he is to be evicted from his home.

Two other leaders from the Apostolic Movement are currently in prison.

Alexi Perez, a leader in Pastor Alvarez’s church, has now been in prison for almost two months, while Pastor Omar Gude Perez was sentenced to six years in prison in July. This follows the detention of at least sixty pastors and leaders linked to the Apostolic Movement in May and June alone.

CSW’s Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert said: “It is clear that the eviction of Pastor Alvarez is the latest in a long line of repressive actions taken by the Cuban Government against Christian leaders associated with the Apostolic Movement.

We strongly encourage the international community, in particular the European Union, to push the Cuban government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it signed in 2008 and to make it clear to Cuban officials that religious freedom must be protected for Cubans of all faiths”.

- Cuban pastor to be evicted; report reveals sharp rise in religious liberty violations, Press release, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Sep. 17, 2009

Religious Freedom in Cuba

There is no question that there is a degree of respect for religious freedom in Cuba and most churches and denominations enjoy a certain amount of freedom to worship and meet together with others of the same faith. However, while the Cuban Government should be encouraged to continue to allow these freedoms, serious violations happening simultaneously across the country cannot be disregarded.

Although there have been some isolated improvements since the release of CSW’s last report on religious freedom in May 2006, these have usually taken place in response to international pressure on particular cases. Generally, religious freedom in Cuba has continued to deteriorate over the past two years, and this has been most evident in a sharp increase in reports of government interference, at times overt, in internal church and/or denominational issues.

The arrest and imprisonment of multiple church leaders, including Omar Gude Perez and Alexi Perez, and the legal harassment of Reverend Roberto Rodriguez, were an alarming development and set an extremely worrying precedent. Legislation passed in 2005 aimed at clamping down on house churches remains in place, and, while not applied uniformly, CSW has received an increased number of reports over the past two years of the demolition and/or confiscation of church property and of the arrests and harassment of church leaders.

Some of the most serious and consistent violations of religious freedom occur in Cuban prisons, where Christian political prisoners are repeatedly denied the fundamental religious rights set out in the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

In a related issue, political activists and their family members, including spouses of political prisoners, are repeatedly denied the right to worship.

Church leaders inside Cuba agree that an antagonistic approach towards the Cuban Government by international groups on this issue will most likely be counterproductive. Any advocacy action taken should be extremely careful to avoid exaggerating or over-dramatising the situation. At the same time, positive results in certain cases over the past two years indicate that the Cuban Government does sometimes respond positively when firmly confronted on specific abuses. It is crucial that the international community continues to consistently raise religious freedom, both in general terms and on specific cases, with the Cuban Government.

- Source / Full Story: Religious Freedom in Cuba, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Sep. 2009 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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