Dissident says Catholic faith drives his fight for Cuba's freedom

.- Cuban dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer said his commitment to fight for freedom in the country is inspired by the Gospels and the Catholic Church.

“I have always believed we should be in the place God wanted us to be and that we should contribute as committed Christians,” said Ferrer, who serves as coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

The activist was recently detained by state police for political dissent in eastern Cuba and was released on Feb. 28.

“What I see in the Gospels is that we cannot remain indifferent to the land where we live, to the nation where we were born, that we should do everything possible so that freedom and the fundamental rights of the person are respected,” he told CNA.

Ferrer was among the 75 dissidents jailed by the Castro government in what's known as the Black Spring of 2003. 

He was condemned to 25 years in prison and was released in 2011 thanks to the Church’s intervention.  However, he refused to be expatriated to Spain and now leads the Patriotic Union of Cuba, which seeks a peaceful transition to democracy for the country.

Ferrer explained that his political ideas “are in large measure based on the Gospels and the Social Doctrine of the Church,” and that he fully shares John Paul II’s vision – outlined in his encyclical Centesimus Annus – on the need for nations to be governed by democratic systems and by the authentic rule of law.

He criticized the Communist regime of the Castro brothers for violating the rights and freedoms of Cubans, as well as those who do nothing to change the country and “stand on the sidelines” waiting for others to make sacrifices.

“I think that is a somewhat non-committal, if not almost cowardly attitude,” he said. “Every lay Catholic, every Christian should make a commitment to ensure a legal framework exists in every nation that allows all people to defend their ideas, not only religious ones, not only their faith in God, but also their political and cultural ideas, in every area, in the freest way possible.”

Cubans ought to have the freedom to choose from more than just the one Communist party that exists in the country, Ferrer added, noting that Communism goes against Christianity in its tendency towards totalitarianism. 

“This is the reason or my desire and my commitment for change in Cuba,” he said.

On the state of Cuba after John Paul II’s visit in 1998, Ferrer said that although few things have changed, any positive advancements are due to the “sacrifice of heroic men and women, with courage and faith like that of the early Christians.”

“The rights and fundamental freedoms of Cubans continue to be violated,” he said. “There have been very few social, economic and cultural rights, if any.”

He said John Paul II was very clear and precise in his messages to Cuba, which Cubans have yet to fully embrace. “We cannot ask the Pope to do our job for us,” he said.

Ferrer's remarks to CNA come just weeks before Pope Benedict's heavily anticipated trip to the country  from March 25-28.

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