On June 2, 2022, the U.S. State Department released its 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom. It “describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”
The Report includes these sources on the subject: (a) Universal Declaration of Human Rights; (b) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; (c) Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief; (d) Religious Freedom Provisions, Commitments, and Obligations from Regional Bodies and Instruments; (e) Department of State Training Related to the International Religious Freedom Act-2021; (f) Department of Homeland Security and the International Religious Freedom Act; and (g) Overview of U.S. Refugee Policy—2021.
There is no overall summary of this freedom in 2021 throughout the world. Instead, as the above summary indicates, the report has separate reports for “every country” in the world. After a summary of its report on Cuba, which is chosen because a Minneapolis church, Westminster Presbyterian, has had partnerships with the island’s Presbyterian-Reformed Church since 2002, there will be general comments from that Cuban church and Westminster.
State Department Report on Cuba
Cuban Religious Demography
According to the Report, “The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11 million (midyear 2021). There is no independent, authoritative source on the overall size or composition of religious groups. The Catholic Church estimates 60 percent of the population identifies as Catholic. Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent. According to some observers, Pentecostals and Baptists are likely the largest Protestant denominations. The Assemblies of God reports approximately 150,000 members; the four Baptist conventions estimate their combined membership at more than 100,000.”
“Jehovah’s Witnesses estimate their members at 95,000; Methodists 50,000; Seventh-day Adventists 36,000; Presbyterians 25,000; Anglicans 22,500; Episcopalians 10,000; Anabaptists 4,387 (mostly Iglesia de Los Hermanos en Cristo, the Brethren of Christ); Quakers 1,000; Moravians 750; and the Church of Jesus Christ 357 members. There are approximately 4,000 followers of 50 Apostolic churches (an unregistered, loosely affiliated network of Protestant churches, also known as the Apostolic Movement) and a separate New Apostolic Church associated with the New Apostolic Church International. According to some Christian leaders, evangelical Protestant groups continue to grow in the country. The Jewish community estimates it has 1,200 members, of whom 1,000 reside in Havana. According to a representative of the Islamic League, there are approximately 4,000 Muslims in the country, of whom fewer than half are native-born. The representative also said that the majority of the Muslim population is Sunni. Immigrants and native-born citizens practice several different Buddhist traditions, with estimates of 6,200 followers. The largest group of Buddhists is the Japanese Soka Gakkai; its estimated membership is 1,000. Other religious groups with small numbers of adherents include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Baha’is.”
“Many individuals, particularly Afro-Cubans, practice religions with roots across Africa, including Yoruba groups often referred to by outsiders as Santeria, but by adherents as the order of Lucumi or Orisha worship. Bantu-influenced groups refer to themselves as Palo Monte. These religious practices are commonly intermingled with Catholicism and other forms of Christianity, and some require Catholic baptism for full initiation, making it difficult to estimate accurately their total membership. Rastafarian adherents also have a presence on the island, although the size of the community is unknown.”
Religious Freedom in Cuba
According to the Report’s Executive Summary, “The country’s constitution contains written provisions for religious freedom and prohibitions against discrimination based on religious grounds. According to the religious freedom advocacy organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), through its Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), continued to control most aspects of religious life. In its annual Watch List, Open Doors reported a continued rise in persecution of Christians in the country. According to media, on July 11, security forces (a general term covering military, police, and vigilante forces) committed acts of violence against, detained, and harassed religious leaders from multiple faith communities who were participating in peaceful demonstrations across the country. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), security forces beat Roman Catholic priest Jose Castor Alvarez Devesa when he offered aid to an injured person at a protest in Camaguey on July 11. CSW reported Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo faced up to a 10-year sentence for participating in a march the same day. Rosales Fajardo was found guilty of charges in December and awaited sentencing at year’s end. Sissi Abascal Zamora, a member of the Ladies in White opposition group, received a six-year sentence for participating in the July protests. Authorities continued to subject members of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Free Yorubas) to arbitrary detentions, threats, physical violence, and verbal harassment. The U.S.-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) Global Liberty Alliance reported four members of Free Yorubas faced extended pretrial detention after their arrests following the July protests and prison sentences of up to 10 years. The Spanish NGO Cuban Observatory of Human Rights registered at least 30 acts against leaders and laypersons from multiple faith communities as the government attempted to suppress public support for peaceful protests called for November 15. According to NGO and media reports, those actions included the orchestration of demonstrations (acts of repudiation) in front of the homes of Catholic priests, police surveillance, internet cuts, and the harassment of a nun as she left her residence in Havana to meet a friend. In August, security service officials arrested Apostolic Church pastor Alain Toledano Valiente for ‘propagating the COVID pandemic’ when he held what he said was a socially distanced service. Religious groups reported the ORA and MOJ continued to deny official registration to certain groups, including to several Apostolic churches, or did not respond to long-pending applications, such as those for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ).”
“Some religious groups and organizations, such as the Catholic charity Caritas, continued to gather and distribute relief items, providing humanitarian assistance to individuals regardless of religious belief. The Catholic-affiliated Community of Sant’Egidio continued to hold prayer and small group meetings in spite of COVID-19 restrictions.”
“Due to a lack of government responsiveness, U.S. embassy officials did not meet with or otherwise engage the ORA during the year. In public statements and on social media, U.S. government officials, including the Secretary of State, continued to call upon the government to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens, including the freedom of religion. Embassy officials met regularly with a range of religious groups concerning the state of religious freedom and political activities related to religious groups’ beliefs.”
“On November 15, 2021, in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, as amended, the Secretary of State again placed Cuba on the Special Watch List for having engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.”
Recent Devotion from Cuban Presbyterian-Reformed Church
The Presbyterian Reformed Church in Cuba prepares daily devotions in Spanish (with English translations) that are available on the Internet. Here, for example, is their devotion for June 26, 2022, the 132nd Anniversary of the church: “Following Jesus (Luke 9:51-62).”
“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”
“A new section of the Gospel of Luke begins with these verses, Jesus’ resolve to travel to Jerusalem. The three candidates for discipleship illustrate the demands that are implied by following Jesus; they teach that emotional enthusiasm is not sufficient and neither are we capable of abandoning all to follow him.”
“Loyalty to Christ takes precedence over any other loyalties. In one of the cases the man tried to excuse himself by saying that he had to care for his dead father. The spiritually dead should bury their dead, but the followers of Jesus should fulfill the urgent work of proclaiming the good news. This is not an argument in favor of insensitivity but is a lesson against delay in fulfilling an order.”
“Jesus focuses his attention on one truth: to serve his cause demands complete dedication. To not be suitable for the Reign of God means a discipleship through which God is unable to use us in the best way.”
“What does Jesus want of us? Complete dedication, not half delivery. We don’t have the right to follow him at our convenience; we should accept the cross together with the crown, judgment together with mercy. One must take into account the cost and to be ready to abandon everything. We should not allow anything to distract us from the path of living what he calls good and true.”
“Prayer: Lord, allow us to be alert to your call and not continually excuse ourselves. In the name of Jesus, Amen”
Report from Westminster Presbyterian Church
“For more than 20 years, Westminster has had a partnership with people and institutions in Cuba, making it our longest global partnership. Well over 100 Westminster members and staff have visited Cuba to experience the culture, welcome, and resilience of the Cuban people. The situation in Cuba remains dire due to food shortages, economic despair, and political unrest. Yet, as of January 1, our partner church, El Redentor/Versalles (Versalles) in Matanzas has welcomed a new pastor, the Rev. Anays Noda, and her family. They bring a renewed energy and new members into the church.”
“After building renovation and much hard work, our siblings at Versalles are eagerly readying for visitors from Westminster. A group of five Westminster members plan to travel in July to revisit the seven clean water installations Westminster currently sponsors [on the island] and to assess a potential new site, anticipating installation later this year. A highlight of the trip will be a chance to worship in person again at Versalles. A congregational trip is also being planned for early 2023 offering a unique experience to witness God’s love this whole world over.”
Any discussion of Cuban religious freedom should expressly recognize its enormous economic problems associated with the worldwide COVID pandemic and the resulting severe negative economic impact on Cuba’s market for international tourism and hence Cuban opportunities for employment and entrepreneurial activities. These and other developments, including the continued U.S. embargo of the island, have caused increased numbers of Cuban seeking to flee the island and protests on the island over desperate conditions.
 Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015}. See generally “Cuban Human Rights” section (with discussions of earlier U.S. reports on Cuban religious freedom) of List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].
 Daily Devotions of the Presbyterian Reformed Church of Cuba (June 26, 2022).
 Our Global Partners in Cuba, Westminster News (July 2022). This blogger treasures his having been on three Westminster mission trips to Cuba and the friendships he has developed with Cubans. (Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Connections with Cuba, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 13, 2015); Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church Celebrates U.S.-Cuba Reconciliation, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 4, 2015). See generally List of Posts to dwkcommentaries—Topical: CUBA [as of 5/4/20].
 See, e.g., Frank, Cuba sees slow economic recovery at 4% in 2022—Official, Reuters (Dec. 12, 2021); Cubans arriving in record numbers along Mexico border, Wash. Post (April 7, 2022); Cuba economic crisis and political crackdown pushes many to immigrate, Al Jazeera YouTube (May 2022); Cuban Migrants Arrive to U.S. in Record Numbers, on Foot, Not by Boat, N.Y. Times (May 3, 2022); With the world distracted, Cuba cracks down on dissident artists, Wash. Post (June 27, 2022)..