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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦 on Unsplash
World News

'Harassment, threats and discrimination': Legal crackdown against Christians in Cuba escalates

by Lydia Davies

Religious freedom watchdog Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has released its latest annual report, shedding light on the state of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba. 

According to the report, 622 documented violations of freedom of religion or belief occurred in 2023 alone, more than double the number from 2021. 

Both registered and unregistered religious groups, spanning Jehovah's Witness, Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic communities, have been victims of these violations. 

Unregistered religious groups, in particular, faced targeted harassment, threats, and discrimination by Cuban government officials. 

Anna Lee Stangl, co-head of advocacy at CSW, told Premier Christian News: "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". 

Adults and children associated with these religious groups regularly face discrimination, including employment termination and demotion due to their faith. 

Children from Protestant Christian and Jehovah's Witness backgrounds have endured verbal, psychological, and physical abuse in schools for refusing to participate in pro-government activities which conflicted with their religious beliefs. 

The government's targeting extends to political prisoners and their families, as well as the religious leaders providing support to them. 

Faith leaders find themselves under significant pressure to exclude family members of political prisoners from places of worship. Simultaneously, political prisoners are denied access to religious literature and visits from pastors and clergymen violating international standards such as the Nelson Mandela Rules. 

Stangl said she has concerns for the Christian political prisoners, stating: "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". 

Among the political prisoners are numerous religious leaders, including Protestant pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo and Afro-Cuban religious leaders Loreto Hernández García and Donaida Perez Paseiro. 

In a public statement, Stangl condemned the Cuban government's actions, noting its resemblance to repressive regimes in China and Russia. 

She emphasised the international community's responsibility to voice concerns and support independent civil society in Cuba to combat these violations of freedom of religion or belief. 

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