Religious freedom in danger in Spain, Cuba and Colombia, report says


A report on religious freedom in 2004 by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) lists Spain, Cuba and Colombia as countries where religious freedom is in danger.

According to the report released June 30 at the Italian Parliament building, with “violence and persecutions, the state of religious freedom in the world continues to be critical.”

The 414-page report analyzes religious freedom in countries according to alphabetical order and by continent, from Albania to Vanuatu.  It was presented to the media by the president of the Italian Parliament, Pier Ferdinando Casini, and Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

According to CAN, “The report is based on direct information, testimonies, official documents, news stories and information provided by human rights organization” and states that “the situation in China is very grave, where 19 bishops were arrested or prevented from exercising their ministry.”

The report also mentions the case of Nigeria, “where Christians are victims of attacks, humiliation, and abuses.”

Regarding Colombia, the report denounces “numerous acts of violence and intimidation against Catholic priests.  On February 19, Father Ramon Rodriguez of Paniquita in the province of Cauca, was attacked by rebels and suffered severe wounds to his legs.”

“On March 19, Father Cesar Peña, a priest from a community near Valdivia, was kidnapped by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).” The report mentions as well the kidnapping of Bishop Miseal Vacca Ramirez of Yopal.

In the case of Cuba, the report cites statements by the Archbishop of Havana, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who maintains, “Catholics are not the object of a true material persecution, but rather in a more subtle way, of an attempt to push all activity (of the Church) to the margins of society and politics.”  In Cuba, the Church has no access to the media and there is no religious education.  In addition, last year local government officials prohibited a parish in the city of Santa Clara from freely distributing medicine and personal hygiene products.

The report also questions the state of religious freedom in some European countries such as Spain, where “the cordial relationship between the Catholic Church and the State deteriorated after the victory of the Socialist party.”

The report also mentions the Muslim country of Turkey, which is under consideration for membership in the EU and where “respect for religious minorities is very unsatisfactory.”

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