The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Religious persecution in Cuba and Nicaragua revitalizes the faith of the people

Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images
Nicaraguan Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes speaks to parishioners during a mass at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Managua in Managua, Nicaragua, on December 18, 2022. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The dictatorships of Cuba and Nicaragua are leading one of the most vicious attacks on religious freedom in the Americas. Both regimes reportedly total more than 1,400 attacks on preachers and parishioners. Its goal is apparently to strangle the prophetic voice of the church, but for some reason the effect has been the opposite. The courage of the religious leaders has aroused the massive admiration of advocates and agnostics.

Since 2018, Nicaragua has accumulated 410 attacks on religious freedom. The desecration of temples, the murder of a 15-year-old altar boy and the arrest of Bishop Rolando Álvarez, are part of the endless string of brutal incidents.

Cuba, the mother of Latin American dictatorships, reportedly registered 1,030 attacks on religious freedom in 2022. The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights indicates that espionage, harassment, summons and forced exile have not managed to break faith.

Why the attack on the church?

The church has a power that dictatorships do not understand or control. The impoverishment and abuses caused by tyrants are denounced by the church with a voice that crosses borders and mocks censorship. Autocrats see it as a powerful and dangerous threat.

Father Alberto Reyes, priest of the Archdiocese of Camagüey, has called for real freedom of expression and denounced the regime’s censorship policies. “I dream of a country where there is religious freedom, which is not reduced to the fact that believers can meet in our temples to worship the God who brings us together.” Words like this feed the faith and hope of a people who have suffered a long-standing 64-year dictatorship.

Shepherds with the smell of sheep

In the 2018 protests, the Nicaraguan church stood by the people. Its courage was loud and clear, public and permanent, preventing Ortega from murdering a greater number of students, women and children.

The Cuban church rose like Lazarus. In July of 2021 protests, the priests stood with the oppressed who were peacefully demanding “patria y vida” (country and life). This closeness and empathy with the people infuriated the tyrants, accustomed to receiving praise and adoration.

Professionals of religious persecution

According to the civic organizations like Prisoners Defenders, the Cuban Office of Religious Affairs (OAAR) supervises all spiritual activities with an iron fist. The eyes and ears of the dictatorship are in all processions, funerals, donations, imports, works, reforms, missionary trips, etc.

In Nicaragua, the National Police prohibited all types of religious processions. The order reportedly came from above. That is, from the wife of Daniel Ortega, Vice President Rosario Murillo. Since 2022, without law or decree, all public processions organized by the church are considered illegal because they disturb the “peace and security” of the dictatorship.

Dictatorships blacklisted in the United States

In 2022, Nicaragua and Cuba were added to the list of countries that violate the religious freedom of their citizens. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that religious freedom violations “sow division, undermine economic security, and threaten political stability and peace.  The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses. “

On the other hand, Cuba and Nicaragua are part of the shameful world ranking of “50 Countries Where Its Hardest to Follow Jesus in 2023.” The two regimes are called out for their systematic attacks against religious freedom, mainly against the Catholic Church.

The complicit silence of Latin America

Religious persecution grows under the shadow of complicit silence. The latest summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (CELAC) issued a declaration of 111 points, 28 pages and 33 signatory countries. Not a single word condemned religious persecution in the region.

Faith is revitalized in the midst of repression. The attacks on religion have had a boomerang effect. The courage of priests and bishops seems to have generated admiration for the church. An unexpected and unstoppable revival, which cries out for the audible solidarity of more democratic countries and especially the voice of the Vatican.

Monsignor Silvio Baez said it this way, “Blessed is the church persecuted for following Jesus, because hers is the kingdom of God!”

Arturo McFields Yescas is former ambassador of Nicaragua to the Organization of American States. Follow him on Twitter: @ArturoMcfields

Tags Catholic Church Cuba Dictatorship Latin America Nicaragua religious freedom

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video