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Germany: booklet on the situation of Christians in Cuba and Venezuela. Mgr. Schick (DBK): “Wherever freedom of thought is threatened, religious freedom is also threatened”

Today, the German bishops have released a booklet on the situation of Christians living in Cuba and Venezuela. The publication is part of the project “solidarity with Christians threatened and persecuted in our time”. “Wherever freedom of thought is threatened, religious freedom is also threatened”, said Ludwig Schick, Archbishop of Bamberg and President of the Commission for International Church Affairs of the German Bishops’ Conference. “Although it is well known that respect for human rights in Cuba and Venezuela is precarious, there is no reliable news of restrictions on religious freedom”. What is clear for both countries is that there cannot be freedom of religion without freedom of expression. Even though both Cuba and Venezuela are regarded as Catholic countries, when pastoral and charitable activities take on political forms, it is easy to come into conflict with the ruling powers. Everything that allegedly calls into question the State’s sovereignty is banned. Administrative harassment and systematic forms of discrimination – that may even include detention – are the order of the day. “In such conditions, it is dangerous to proclaim the liberating message of Jesus Christ and speak up against social injustices”, Mgr. Schick said. There are so many people who are threatened and persecuted for taking a firm political stance and acting in accordance with their Christian responsibility. According to Mgr, Schick, “even there, where the diversity of opinions is not well received by the dominant political forces, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has an overwhelming political power”. The President of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop José Luis Azuaje Ayala (Maracaibo), described the critical humanitarian situation in his country. “There are more and more people – he said – who are forced to scavenge for food in garbage bins to survive hunger. This is not respect for human rights”. Today, there is a lack of medicines and staples in what was once the richest country in South America, and thousands of Venezuelans emigrate abroad every day. Those who expose the political reasons that have caused so much misery are threatened. Archbishop Azuaje Ayala lamented the weakening of democracy in Venezuela and called for concrete commitment to freedom and respect for human rights and dignity. “The Church – the president of the Venezuelan Bishops added – is on the side of the poorest, even if this entails problems and restrictions”.

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