January 24, 2013
Cuba: Travel Gets Easier as Practicing Faith Gets Harder
(Updated) Cuban pastor once appeared on CT cover, now blogs on religious freedom.
Update (April 4): According to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, religious freedom violations are on the rise in Cuba, tripling from 40 in 2011 to 120 incidents in 2012.
The report states, "After a period in which it appeared that the government was moving towards more subtle and refined pressure on church leaders, 2012 saw a return of the use of more brutal and public tactics."
The island nation's decision to lift travel restrictions (for economic reasons) comes as Cuban Christians are reportedly experiencing increased religious persecution.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports "a dramatic increase in violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba in 2012." The organization documented 120 reported cases in 2012, up from 30 in 2011. CSW says "some of [these incidents] involved entire churches and denominations and hundreds of people."
In one case, government officials in Santa Clara have refused "to allow Trinidad First Baptist Church access to its bank account. The accounts for the historic local church, with funds amounting to approximately US$27,000, were frozen by government officials in 2010."
Similarly, Morning Star News (MSN) also reported 'dim prospects' and "increased abuses [that] range from arrests to enticing Christian leaders into immorality."
According to MSN, "Cuba perceives mass adherence to a given faith as a political threat. And although there are signs that Cuban Christians are standing up to government hostility, prospects for future progress in religious rights are unclear."
CT has regularly reported on Cuba, including noting in October that it planned to ease restrictions for travel exit visas. CT also traveled Cuba during Holy Week in 2009 for a cover story on the Communist island's improbable Christian revival.