church leaders in the US “are asking our government for more openness,
more opportunities to make pastoral visits to Cuba for religious
reasons,” and he denied there were restrictions on freedom of religion
in Cuba, openly contradicting the report on human rights by the US
State Department and the public testimony of leaders in Cuba such as
Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement.
“The official US
government has this idea that there is no freedom to practice religion
in Cuba. After being here for one week, this is obviously not
true,” Chase claimed. “It’s obvious that the churches here are
active and are growing and they are doing so openly,” he added.
In a recent
interview with the internet magazine Encuentro en la Red, Paya argued
that while there is a certain freedom of worship in Cuba, the
oppression in many places is “palpable,” with government agents openly
monitoring Masses in an attempt to intimidate people.
is not public, I must speak about it,” he said, “because I know
firsthand how many religious sisters and brothers are victims of
threats, intimidating phone calls and blackmail.”
religious services Monday at the first Presbyterian church in Havana,
the moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, Rick Ufford Chase, denied
that there is a “lack of religious freedom” in Cuba, despite the
constant complaints by believers and abundant evidence to the contrary.