Tuesday, October 27, 2009

State Department: Slight drop in religious harassment in Cuba

Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Havana, Cuba

Most Cubans believe in Afro-Cuban faiths. More than a half million Cubans are Protestants. And Shi'a Muslims on the island operate out of an apartment because a hurricane damaged their religious center in 2008.
Those are among the findings of the State Department's 2009 International Religious Freedom Report, released Oct. 26.
Reports of Cuban government harassment of religious organizations "declined slightly" over the previous year, the document's Cuba report said.
Various religious groups reported fewer restrictions on politically sensitive expression, the ability to hold religious activities even for organizations without official recognition, increased capacity to conduct charitable and community service projects, fewer import and travel restrictions, permission to repair buildings, and significant increases in membership.
Restrictions on religion remain, however. The report said:
Religious groups complained about widespread surveillance and infiltration of their membership by state security agents.
An Afro-Cuban ritual.

As for demographics, the document said, as many as 80 percent of Cubans are believed to consult with santeros and many ask for help with "specific immediate problems such as bearing children, curing illness, or ensuring safe passage."

Believers in other faiths include:
* about 100,000 Christians
* 550,000 Protestants
* 1,500 Jews
Baptists "are possibly the largest Protestant denomination," said the report, without giving an estimate. Pentecostals, particularly members of Assemblies of God churches, follow close behind and their numbers are "believed to be rising sharply."

Other believers include:
* More than 90,000 Jehovah's Witnesses
* More than 30,000 Seventh-day Adventists
* More than 22,000 Anglicans
* More than 21,000 Methodists
* More than 15,000 Presbyterians
* More than 300 Quakers
* 50 Mormons
The report said:
The Muslim population consists of 6,000 temporary residents, mainly businessmen, students, and diplomats, and 300 native-born Sunni Muslims.
There are approximately 50 Shi'a Muslims. The Shi'a community directs the Al-Ma'sumin Islamic Center. In the fall of 2008 a hurricane extensively damaged the building, and the Center now operates out of an apartment. The Government is working with the Government of Iran to provide a replacement for the leader of the Shi'a community when the current leader, Miguel Aquila Cardenas "Hassan Felix," a native Cuban, travels to Iran to complete the studies necessary to obtain the title of Mufti.

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