Catholic dissident leader says Church in Cuba still being persecuted

.- Three years after the Castro government’s massive crackdown on opposition groups, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya, said the persecution of the Church in Cuba continues.
In an interview with the internet magazine Encuentro en la Red, Paya gave an extensive analysis of the status of the opposition and the Church in Cuba.  “Its been three years since that day, which was an event that did not end at that moment, but continues even to this day, since our friends are still in prison.  We can’t talk about this as if it were the past, but rather as a continuing cruel present,” Paya explained.

“We are facing a moment of regression and in recent months the so-called ‘acts of repudiation,’ that is, those fascist, communist acts in which families are terrorized and beaten, have gotten worse. In addition, state police continue to go house to house, to all of the signers of the Varela Project, in other to threaten them with unemployment, deny them leave of the country, and threaten them with everything totalitarianism has to pressure them to retract.”

Paya called for a greater response from the international community, which, he said, pays attention to other unjust situations in the world but is often “silent or indifferent” in response to the injustice in Cuba.

Asked about statements by Cardinal Renato Martino suggesting that the Church no longer suffers repression in Cuba, Paya said, “I’m not going to comment on messages or statements by the local Church or the Vatican.  But I can speak of my own experience and reality.  This oppression not only touches the churches and believers; it has a special component dedicated just to us.”

While there is a certain freedom of worship in Cuba, Paya noted the oppression in many places is “palpable,” with government agents openly monitoring Masses in an attempt to intimidate people.  “Although this is not public, I must speak about it, because I know firsthand how many religious sisters and brothers are victims of threats, intimidating phone calls and blackmail.”

Paya also called for greater commitment from Church leaders to fulfill the Church’s role as prophet and defender of human rights.  At the same time, he added, the laity is already in a position to “take on this attitude.”  “They only have to decide to do it.  Because, I have never been of the thinking that I have to act under the identity of the Church—even though my inspiration comes from being a Christian—or to see the Church as a political trench, or to identify any one movement, program and personality, no matter how great they are, with the Church.”

“I have always defended that distinction,” Paya stated, “because everything in the political and social sphere is debatable.  And when a person or a group wants a commitment from the Church, or acts in the name of the Church, whether openly or not, then they are identifying the Church with what could very well be a legitimate option, but it may be only one option and not necessarily the option of the Church.”


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