Cuba: Treatment of Seventh-Day Adventists; procedures to be followed by Church members wishing to host a home Bible study; relationship between the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Office of Religious Affairs (2001-February 2002)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||5 March 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CUB38075.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Cuba: Treatment of Seventh-Day Adventists; procedures to be followed by Church members wishing to host a home Bible study; relationship between the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Office of Religious Affairs (2001-February 2002) , 5 March 2002, CUB38075.E , available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be281c.html [accessed 8 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
In its most recent country report, Human Rights Watch stated that while authorities maintain "considerable control over religious expression," religious institutions generally enjoy a "degree of autonomy not permitted other bodies" (2001). According to Country Reports 2000, state authorities have in recent years "relaxed restrictions on some religious denominations, including Seventh-Day Adventists" (Feb. 2001, section 2).
This information was corroborated by the secretary of the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, who stated on 22 February 2002 that the freedom of worship afforded to Church members has increased significantly in the past two years. The secretary, who has recently visited Cuba, also indicated that the Church operates in a "climate of complete liberty" (clima de completa libertad), and faces no restrictions in its proselytising activities (ibid.). Furthermore, the Church experiences no impediment to the distribution of its literature, much of which is printed in Cuba (ibid.).
A number of reports refer to the easing of restrictions on the activities of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church; examples follow.
According to a 12 December 2000 report by the Adventist News Network, whereas "only a few years ago" the Church had been prohibited from distributing Bibles, it was now allowed to do so, and had brought 1.5 million copies into the country during the previous five years.
On 19 December 2000, the Adventist News Network indicated that 500 inmates incarcerated in "15 different Cuban prisons ... are studying the Bible and holding church services." Cuban authorities had reportedly begun to allow the Church to conduct religious services in prisons two years previously (ibid.).
Between 12 and 20 February 2001, the Church held an "evangelistic outreach series" in Havana's Mella Theatre (ibid. 6 Mar. 2001). The event, which reportedly drew 1,500 spectators each night, marked "the first time in 42 years that a Protestant evangelistic program [had] been held in a public venue in Cuba," and was "made possible after the Cuban government gave permission for the Adventist Church to conduct the meetings" (ibid.).
No information on whether Church members face any restrictions pertaining to the observance of their Sabbath could be found among the documentary sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the Church's Inter-American Division secretary, recently there has been almost no "marginalization" (marginación) of Church members because of their observance of the Sabbath (22 Feb. 2002). The secretary added that he has been advised that problems related to the observance of the Sabbath are minimal in number (ibid.).
No information on the procedures to be followed by individuals wishing to host a home Bible study could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, the Inter-American Division secretary stated that the Church's growth in recent years is due to the fact that the authorities have allowed it to conduct religious services in individuals' homes (ibid.).
All religious groups operating in Cuba are required to register with the Office of Religious Affairs (Country Reports 2000 2001; Adventist News Network 13 Mar. 2001). During a visit to the Church's headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, Fernando Ramirez, the "highest-ranking Cuban diplomat in the United States," stated that the Office is responsible for establishing country-wide regulatory standards, thereby avoiding "local interpretations of laws" (ibid.). The Inter-American Division secretary characterized relations between the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Office of Religious Affairs as "excellent," adding that Office officials are easy to reach and that they facilitate implementation of the Church's programs in Cuba (22 Feb. 2002).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Adventist News Network [Silver Spring, Maryland]. 13 March 2001. "Top Cuban Diplomat Says Religious Freedom Improving in Cuba."
_____. 6 March 2001. "Evangelistic Series in Cuba Breaks New Ground."
_____. 19 December 2000. "Cuban Prisoners Find Freedom in Christ."
_____. 12 December 2000. "Church Grows in Cuba: One Step at a Time."
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000. February 2001. Washington, DC: United States Department of State.
Human Rights Watch. 2001. Human Rights Watch World Report 2002.
Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Inter-American Division, Miami. 22 February 2002. Correspondence from secretary.
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites including:
Adventist News Network. 2001-2002.
Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2001. Oct. 2001.
Comité Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos.
Digital Freedom Network.
International Christian Concern (ICC).
International Coalition for Religious Freedom.
Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
World News Connection (WNC).