Although officially the government does not favor any one church or religion, it appears to be more tolerant of those churches that maintain close relations with the state, such as those that belong to the “government friendly” Cuban Council of Churches.
It rewards them with special benefits (such as permits for outdoor services and youth camps). This exclusive favoritism is the cause for division with other religious institutions in the country.
The absence of religious freedom creates a climate of fear and lack of trust, which weakens civil society and creates greater distance between the citizens and those who govern them. And therefore makes it more difficult to achieve any type of common national agenda.
Cubans should be free to promote the understanding of religious freedom embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and other international covenants to their fellow citizens.
Article 18 of the declaration states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”
The Cuban government has it wrong. These are human rights which provide dignity. It is the inherent patrimony of all human beings and a right of all Cubans. This is not something “allowed” or “gifted” by any country. Instead, it is the responsibility of governments’ to protect.
In Cuba, the church should be free to define the mission it believes it has received. Christians, Catholics and other believers must be free to practice their faith in whatever manner they believe necessary. Unfortunately this is not the case.
Teo A. Babun, Jr., is executive director of ECHOcuba, a Christian organization committed to helping support the independent church in Cuba.