Cuban cardinal exhorts political prisoners not to risk life with hunger strike

.- The Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, has asked three political prisoners in Cuba to end their hunger strike because “life is a gift from God and should not be taken lightly.” Victor Arroyo and Jose Ferrer Garcia, sentenced to 26 years in prison, began their hunger strike in September, while Felix Navarro, sentenced to 25 years, began his in October.

“If they could hear me I would ask them to stop their hunger strike, and if the authorities have access to this I would tell them to very humanely get these people some nourishment however they have to,” Cardinal Ortega said.

While he said he understood their desperation and anguish, the cardinal warned that the longer they continue with this action, the more “they are risking their lives.”

“As Christians we do not embrace the concept of using a means of resistance that endangers life, such as suicide or hunger strikes,” the cardinal explained.

Life is “a gift from God,” he continued, that cannot be taken lightly. Therefore, he said everything possible should be done so that the persons in question “stop their hunger strike and can overcome the critical state in which they find themselves.”

Cardinal Rivera also commented on the nomination of the Ladies in White to receive the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, awarded by the European Parliament.  He said it was “logical” that the group was being considered for the prize.  “This is a prize that reflects the attitude of these women, who plead for their spouses, family members and children in a very peaceful way,” he said.

He noted that the Ladies in White never use churches for their protests, but rather, often after attending Mass, they take to the streets to march.  Their selection to receive the prize, the cardinal maintained, would “contribute to spreading their commitment to freedom and the well being of their spouses.”


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