FoRB on the Frontlines: “Everyone’s hatred was ever present”

In several Latin American countries, religious leaders often take on the roles of community leader and human rights defender. As a result, these leaders often face harassment, intimidation and even violence at the hands of state and non-state actors. Over the past few weeks CSW has been presenting interviews with religious leaders working in the region to highlight their experiences on the frontlines of freedom of religion or belief.

Yilber is a Protestant pastor based in Cuba.

“I have received so many threats in my life as a Christian that there are, honestly, too many to count. This is something I want to describe, and to do this I won’t rely on generalisations or abstract, subjective examples, I will expose the scars borne by my family ever since we left our town to do pastoral work.

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Cuba y la libertad de religión o creencias: una entrevista con Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre

Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre es un defensor de la Libertad de Religión quién fue detenido arbitrariamente el 12 de julio por agentes de seguridad del estado después de abandonar la sede de las Damas de Blanco en La Habana, donde había estado documentando violaciones de la libertad de religión o de creencias (LdRC). Pasó una semana detenido, durante los primeros cuatro días fue completamente incomunicado y no podía contactar su familia o amigos.

El 19 de julio Ricardo fue liberado. En esta entrevista habla de su experiencia, y explico por qué va a seguir defendiendo la LdRC a pesar de su encarcelamiento reciente.

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“El trabajo de los defensores de la Libertad de Religión y creencias en Cuba (LdRC) es un camino largo, que pasa por las desilusiones (cuando los afectados se niegan a denunciar) y por la represión gubernamental, cuando la policía política persigue, acosa, hostiga y encarcela a los que tratan de hacer valer los derechos humanos. Pero al final del camino está el agradecimiento sincero de los que vieron sus casos resueltos y la convicción profunda de que Dios respalda cada paso que damos llevando esperanzas, como ovejas en medio de lobos (Evangelio de Mateo 10:16).

LEE MÁS

FoRB on the Frontlines: Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre

Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre is a Cuban religious freedom defender who was arbitrarily detained on Friday 12 July by state security agents after leaving the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana where he had been documenting violations of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB). He spent a week in detention, the first four days of which he was completely incommunicado and unable to make or receive contact from family or friends.

On 19 July Ricardo was released. In this interview he details his experience, and explains why he will continue to stand up for FoRB in Cuba despite his recent imprisonment.

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“The work of defenders of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Cuba is a long road which includes disappointments (when victims refuse to report their experiences) and government repression, as political police persecute, attack, harass, and imprison those who try to uphold human rights. But the sincere gratitude of those who see their cases resolved, and the profound conviction that God supports every step we take, bringing hope, like sheep surrounded by wolves (Matthew 10:16) is what can be found at the end of this road.

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Quick read: Hong Kong protests – an interview with a Chinese pastor

In recent weeks Hong Kong has seen unprecedented protests in which over one million demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest a controversial extradition bill that would allow the extradition of suspected criminals to Mainland China. On 9 July the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, declared that the bill was ‘dead,’ however some protesters remain concerned that the bill is still on the official agenda and has not been formally withdrawn.

Near the beginning of the protests CSW spoke with a Chinese pastor who explained the main concerns regarding the bill, and what the bill may indicate about the general direction for freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.

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Turkey under Erdogan: Caught between secular and Islamic identities

Although Turkey’s constitution defines the country as a secular state, it is caught between its secular and Islamic identities. The current government has publicly endorsed a move towards a Sunni Muslim identity for the country, conflating religious and national identities, by combining the religious nationalism propagated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or AKP) with the secular Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or MHP)’s ideology of ‘ultra-nationalism,’ which is defined as “extreme nationalism that promotes the interests of one state or people above all others.”  

The promotion of religious ultra-nationalism in Turkey has contributed to a rise in discrimination, and in hate speech that incites violence against those who do not adhere to Sunni Islam.

Such incitement is visible in a variety of areas ranging from education and employment, to religious practices and day-to-day administrative procedures. There has also been a surge in the expression of anti-Semitism and anti-Christian sentiments in pro-government media.

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