Cuba: Arrests, fines and travel bans... 'Troubling' rise in targeting
Carey Lodge CHRISTIAN TODAY JOURNALIST 30 June 2015
Churches in Cuba are increasingly being targeted by the government and
forced to pay huge sums of money, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
An annual report into religious freedom in Cuba released last month
branded a rise in violations of religious liberty in the country
"troubling". Every Sunday scores of men and women are violently arrested
and temporarily imprisoned to stop them attending Mass, and foreign
students involved in religious activities have been expelled and had
their visas taken away. Additionally, CSW has accused the Cuban
government of targeting church properties "to tighten its control over
the activities and membership of religious groups and thus eliminate the
potential for any social unrest."
Legislation that came into force in January of this year has been used
by the government to seize properties belonging to religious
organisations and force them into paying vast sums of money, CSW says.
A national leader of the Apostolic Movement in Cuba, Rev Yiorvis Bravo,
had his church confiscated in 2013. Housing Ministry Officials decreed
that he could only continue to use the building if he paid a fee of US
$300 a month – 15 times the average annual salary in Cuba. Bravo, who
maintains he is the legal owner of the property, has thus far refused to
pay the sum, and has now been banned from travelling outside of the country.
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He was due to visit Peru for a Leadership course on June 29, but
received a letter the day beforehand stating that he now not allowed to
leave Cuba because of his 'debts'.
Chief executive of CSW Mervyn Thomas said Bravo's situation is a "clear
demonstration that the strategy behind these expropriations is to exert
more control over religious leaders and bodies of faith."
"We have repeatedly raised concerns about the growing number of
churches, registered and unregistered, which have been informed of the
arbitrary expropriations of their properties by the government in recent
months," Thomas said.
"We continue to condemn the illegal expropriations of church properties
and call on the Cuban government to rescind these orders of confiscation
immediately. Furthermore, we call on the Cuban authorities to lift any
restrictions on travel for Reverend Bravo without delay."
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