Baptist, Methodist and Pentacostal pastors in a UMAP forced labor camp. Source: religionrevolution.blogspot.com
By: Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez
I don’t know what is happening with some people and institutions in the world, I think that they suffer from some sort of lethargy that doesn’t allow them to perceive Cuban reality, or they are simply content with what the antidemocratic government of the country informs and draws for them. The Cuban heartland is something else, very distant from the reports and statistics that the un-government offers to international opinion. The mere fact of seeing the nation submerged in bankruptcy and disequilibrium caused by more than 50 years under the same system, with leaders whose extreme self-sufficiency has led them to believe that they are immortal gods, almighty and non-substitutable, is already sufficient for the free world to understand that on the tiny Antilles island, democracy and freedom went out to the countryside one day and apparently cannot find their way back home.
I also can’t seem to explain the reason why the Cuban nation doesn’t take over the reins and liberate itself once and for all from everything that overwhelms it. We can clearly see, one only needs to have a bit of good vision, that the country will succumb, that its inhabitants are discontent with daily living, although, lamentably, the answer to this unhappiness is the high number of emigrants, suicides, alcoholics, delinquency, the low birth rate (which has resulted in an aging population), alienation and silence.
To speak of freedom in Cuba is almost painful, the most recurrent monosyllable is “No”. No freedom of expression. No freedom of the press. No freedom of political or party affiliation (in a one-party system). No freedom of ideas. No freedom of information. No freedom of meetings or membership. And there is a so-called “religious freedom” where the separation of Church and state only applies to the Church, because the state is constantly exerting its meddling dominion over the various denominations, associations, etc.: manipulating the ecclesiastic leadership, forever threatening, blackmailing, with airs of superiority. I truly do not know what they call separation of Church and state, when the former is supervised in every aspect by the latter: every step that is taken, every decision that is made.
The questions posed by Benedict XVI on his recent visit to the country continue to be unanswered. When will properties that were confiscated from the Churches in the early years of the Revolution be returned in their entirety? When will it be possible to build new church-affiliated educational institutions so that present and future generations of the faithful may be educated, not under the doctrines of Marxist-Leninism, but under the teachings of the Bible? When will religious institutions be allowed to have their own radio and television time-slots, have their periodical publications, presses, editorial houses and bookstores? Could it be that denying all this to the Church is not, in some good measure, the same as wounding its freedom?
Furthermore, it is important to point out that all of the elements that deny believers in Cuba of their genuine freedom should, if restored, be for everyone without distinction including, as Percy Francisco Alvarado Godoy would say in his post: “Another lie of Radio Marti…” to the “tiny and irrelevant congregations delegated to the Western Baptist Convention, as well as the Apostolic Movement,” the latter not legalized by the censoring filter of the Central Committee Register of Associations.
The great fallacy is (and, believe me, this is already more than “a quagmire of lies”) in stating that in Cuba its un-government (and I cite the aforementioned author): “has never tortured or persecuted religious pastors for their beliefs, independent of the size of their denominations, their isolation, or lack of a support group on a national or international level.” I believe the term “never” is too broad. Although, of course, the author to whom I am referring is following the steps of his maximum guide, the now historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who had the shamelessness to declare in the interview “Fidel and Religion,” that in Cuba no place of worship had ever been shut down.
In the not too distant past –just barely the decade of the ’60s of the past century)– the dictators (by then staunch enemies of religion) created the UMAP* concentration camps, where hundreds of pastors and Church leaders were sent. Many places of worship were literally shut down, among them the Baptist Church Ebenezer of Taguayabón, of which I am a member.
The faithful were not worthy to attend the universities of the country, many would lose their jobs if they decided to remain steadfast to their faith. Places of worship were emptied giving way to the era of Communist ideology, with its atheist and materialistic nature, that in Fidel Castro’s version takes on the appearance of exterminator of the spirituality of a believing people, by their nature.
The current, much-trumpeted Cuban Constitution –all the while manipulated by the owners of everything within the island– claims in its article 8, to acknowledge and respect freedom of conscience and religion. They should, if they were honest, include a clause in this article: only if whoever professes these is a Revolutionary, practices “Fidelism” and has learned to abide by whatever is mandated to them on behalf of governmental entities.
The clause is implied, even when the article goes on to state that religious institutions are separate from the state. Article 55 states: that the state recognizes, respects and guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. It would be repetitive to explain this great lie: a country where whoever thinks differently –in ideology and politics– is incarcerated, arbitrarily detained, threatened, repudiated and always under the same defamatory pretext: that they are either paid by the empire or are mercenaries. In the atrocious egocentrism of the Castros and their “revolutionary” followers, differing minds do not fit. They fear plurality, like the fear that the tyrants have of those of true faith and firm convictions.
In any case and without understanding what happens to those who proclaim themselves free in the world, and with the Cuban nation so lacking its most basic rights, I carry on here within this stifled Cuba and in this “tiny and irrelevant Baptist Convention of Western Cuba”, for my fill of beautiful traditions and a deep history of more than one hundred years, with champions of the faith like Alberto J. Diaz, who was very close to José Martí and who collaborated in the pro-independence struggles against the Spanish colony; Luis Manuel Gonzalez Peña, who in the darkest hours of the faithful in Cuba told a civil servant, who predicted the end of the Churches in the country, that there would be Churches to last a while, and others. Believing in a Jesus, who does not commune with the powerful egocentrics of this world but with those below them –with “the immense minorities”– and who in the end was followed by many, to be abandoned later by the greater part of them, including His disciples, and who was also crucified by many and accepted by few.
*Unidades Militarias de Ayuda a la Producción: Military Units for Assistance to Production
Translated by: Maria Montoto
July 6 2012