Reports of religious persecution in Cuba quadrupled last year
As of January 14, Cuban citizens can now apply for passports that will let them travel around the world and stay abroad for up to two years before applying for any extensions.
The island nation's decision to lift travel restrictions (for economic reasons) comes as Cuban Christians are reportedly experiencing increased religious persecution.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports "a dramatic increase in violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba in 2012." The organization documented 120 reported cases in 2012, up from 30 in 2011. CSW says "some of [these incidents] involved entire churches and denominations and hundreds of people."
In one case, government officials in Santa Clara have refused "to allow Trinidad First Baptist Church access to its bank account. The accounts for the historic local church, with funds amounting to approximately US$27,000, were frozen by government officials in 2010."
Of note: Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a Cuban pastor quoted by CSW who blogs at Cubano Confesante, appeared on CT's cover in 2009 after the magazine visited the Santa Clara church.
Similarly, Morning Star News (MSN) also reported 'dim prospects' and "increased abuses [that] range from arrests to enticing Christian leaders into immorality."
According to MSN, "Cuba perceives mass adherence to a given faith as a political threat. And although there are signs that Cuban Christians are standing up to government hostility, prospects for future progress in religious rights are unclear."
CT has regularly reported on Cuba, including noting in October that it planned to ease restrictions for travel exit visas. CT also traveled Cuba during Holy Week in 2009 for a cover story on the Communist island's improbable Christian revival. CT