'Church leaders from all denominations reported harassment,' according to new report (CC/Flickr)
‘Church leaders from all denominations reported harassment,’ according to new religious freedom report on Cuba (CC/Flickr/Byron Howes)

The latest figures on religious-rights violations in Cuba show a “general trend of a steady increase”, according to the latest report from advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

In 2017 the group recorded 325 violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). Last year’s figure is lower than 2016 and 2015, when 2,000 Assemblies of God churches were threatened with confiscation or demolition (the threats were later rescinded), but each individual case in 2017 “involved large numbers of victims”, CSW said. The charity recorded 220 FoRB violations in Cuba in 2014, 180 in 2013, 120 in 2012 and 40 in 2011.

Church leaders from all denominations reported consistent harassment and surveillance from state security, as well as from Communist Party officials responsible for religious affairs. The government continued to severely restrict public religious events, including interrupting and stopping an inter-denominational worship event in eastern Cuba which had received advance permission from the local authorities, according to CSW.

“The government is now also diversifying its tactics by threatening activists and religious leaders with trumped-up criminal charges, arbitrarily preventing them from travelling out of the country and targeting their children,” the report said.

Cuba remains outside the Open Doors World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian. Although the state appears to be relaxing its control over churches, the government still places informants in church services and monitors citizens for evidence of dissent.