News and Facts about Cuba

Cuban church leaders appeal to US over religious freedom

Cuban church leaders appeal to US over religious

by ASSIST News ServicePosted: Wednesday, May 30, 2012, 11:53 (BST)

A delegation of Cuban church leaders has called on the US government to

add Cuba to its Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list as one of the

world's worst violators of religious freedom.

The delegation, hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), last

week briefed members of Congress and US government officials in

Washington DC on the sharp rise in religious freedom violations in Cuba.

Former of conscience and denominational leader Rev Carlos

Lamelas, and his wife Uramis, were among the church leaders who briefed

the Congressional International Religious Freedom Caucus and

Commissioners from the United States Commission for International

Religious Freedom (USCRIF).

CSW said that the group shared personal experiences of state-sponsored

violations and also gave an overview of how the Cuban

government attempts to control and manipulate religious groups.

In a written declaration, Rev Lamelas said, "My case is far from being

an isolated case and it is even less so the worst of the repression

suffered by Christian ministries in Cuba. The difference perhaps was

that I was blessed to have had my case made public in the international

media. For this reason, it is my responsibility to speak out about the

repressive and unscrupulous manipulations of this decaying regime.

"In this declaration, I urge whoever can do so, to the Castro

government as violators of the most basic human rights. They extend

their arms, like an octopus, to repress not only Cuban civil society but

also all believers, including church hierarchies, which on occasion work

in complicity with them."

Since the start of this year, CSW has recorded over 40 separate

incidents of religious freedom violations in Cuba compared with 28 in

all of 2011.

Religious freedom violations range from preventing people from attending

church services to the seizure of church land, and official harassment,

beatings and imprisonment of church leaders. Some cases involve large

groups of people.

CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, "While religious freedom

has always been limited in Cuba, the spike in religious freedom

violations this year is deeply troubling. The figures are not exhaustive

but show a clear trend, confirmed by the members of this week's

delegation, which is at odds with the claim of that his

government respects religious freedom.

"We echo Rev Lamelas' call to the international community to recognise

the Cuban government's systematic and escalating violations of corporate

and individual religious freedom and urge the US to place Cuba on its

CPC list."

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