Human Rights Group Slams Cuba on Religious Freedom
The human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Jan. 18 slammed the Cuban government for what the organization described as an "unprecedented crackdown on churches across the denominational spectrum."
In a report titled "Cuba: Freedom of Religion or Belief," the group -- based in New Malden, England -- noted that, despite the recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana, the communist government in Cuba is taking an even tougher stance on believers. The report accuses authorities of violating Cubans' religious freedom on at least 2,300 separate occasions during 2015.
'Brutal tactics' in 'crackdown on churches'
According to CSW, that figure marks a tenfold increase over the violations recorded the previous year and represents a "crackdown on churches" on the Caribbean island. The organization warned that "brutal and public tactics" were being used to threaten believers and shut down places of worship.
"CSW doesn't use the word 'unprecedented' lightly to refer to violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba in 2015," said the group's chief executive, Mervyn Thomas, in a statement. But "following an upward trend in violations in recent years, 2015 witnessed a spike as the authorities deployed ever more public and brutal tactics to target churches across the denominational spectrum, regardless of their legal status."
Rapprochement with boomerang effect
Recent reforms initiated by the communist authorities, paradoxically, might have increased pressure to maintain some control over society at large, Thomas speculated.
"Despite promises of reform, the government is determined to maintain a tight grip on civil society, including churches," he argued. " We ... call for the right to freedom of religion or belief to be upheld. We urge the international community to stand with (believers) and to hold Cuba to account for these human rights violations."
During his September 2015 visit to Cuba, Pope Francis had similarly demanded that worshippers not be subject to persecution in the Caribbean nation, CNN recalled. The head of the world's more than 1 billion Catholics insisted believers should "not to be satisfied with appearances or what is politically correct."
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