“God gives us strength based on our faith. We are fighting for freedom. Our Lord said the truth will set you free and we are fighting for this ideal.” Berta Soler is a human rights activist and the leader of the Ladies in White group. Berta exemplifies the courage and perseverance of Cuba’s human rights activists, church leaders and hundreds of others who face daily harassment just because of what they believe.
Fếlix Llerena López is a young religious freedom defender who was arrested three months after an advocacy visit to Washington, DC with CSW. He wasn’t permitted to travel and had even been expelled from university. However, the charges against him have now been dropped: praise God for this good news.
Over the past year, pastors across Cuba have told CSW that there is more pressure on church leaders than ever before. Some say that the government harassment is so bad that they are planning to seek refugee status abroad. Many have already left. Please pray for church leaders who have made this difficult decision and ask God to help them to integrate in their new country.
Pastor to pest controller: it’s not the most glamorous career change. In July Pastor Ramon Rigal was barred from working as a church leader – instead, he would have to take a job in mosquito extermination. At a court hearing in August he was informed he would be allowed to resume his church work, but a week later the government again threatened to block him from working as a pastor. Pray that Pastor Ramon, his wife and their church would no longer be harassed by the government.
Every Sunday the Ladies in White, a group founded by the female relatives of jailed dissidents, attend Mass and then hold a silent peaceful protest march. For this, they are harassed and beaten by the authorities and are often arbitrarily detained to stop them attending Mass. They are often also blocked from doing weekday religious activities. Thank God for their courage and ask him to protect every member of the group.
Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez is an activist and writer who runs Convivencia, a civil society initiative deeply influenced by his Catholic faith. He and his team have become a target for government harassment. In August Karina Galvez, a key leader of Convivencia, was sentenced to three years’ house arrest on trumped up charges; Dagoberto himself has been extensively interrogated at least three times. Pray that they would be able to carry out their work freely.
Pastors from the Apostolic Movement, a fast growing independent network of churches which the government has refused to register, continue to be singled out for particular harassment. Four of their churches were demolished in 2016 and one of their church leaders, Reverend Juan Carlos Núñez Velázquez, is currently under house arrest. Ask God to continue to give the network’s leaders strength in the face of persecution.
Lord God, we lift the island of Cuba to you. There are so many of your people there who are suffering every day just because they follow you: please grant them courage and endurance, and hope that lasting change will eventually come. In your powerful name we pray. Amen.
(Source, Christian Solidarity Worldwide.)