Czech Protestant leader questions official Cuban churches
A church official from the Czech Republic, which was under communist rule from 1948 to 1989, says support for Christians in Cuba which has been governed since 1959 by ailing leader Fidel Castro should not only be given through government-backed institutions ñ writes Stephen Brown for Ecumenical News International.
"From our own experiences churches in Central and Eastern Europe are aware of what it means to live under a repressive totalitarian regime of the type, which, in our opinion, exists in Cuba," said Jitka Klubalova, general secretary of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic.
Klubalova made her comments on 3 August 2006 in an open letter to World Council of Churches general secretary, the Rev Dr Samuel Kobia. In the letter she referred to recent comments by the WCC leader in which he denounced proposals for the United States to tighten sanctions on Cuba.
The Washington proposals said the US Department of Commerce should no longer grant licences for humanitarian aid to Cuba that would go through the Cuban Council of Churches. According to the US proposals, the church body is controlled by the Cuban government.
In a letter to US President George W. Bush, Dr Kobia described the idea as "a gross violation of religious freedom".
The Cuban Council of Churches was founded in 1941 and has 22 Protestant, Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal member denominations. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member.
In her letter to Dr Kobia, Ms Klubalova wrote, "I am working for Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic which ... was an institution controlled and governed by a communist regime before 1989. Therefore I understand those who have doubts about help to Cuban Christians only through official organisations."
She noted: "As I see it, the flow of non-agriculture and medical help from the US government could possibly cease through the Cuban Council of Churches, but will definitely not stop being provided through other channels."
Klubalova said her country's biggest Protestant denomination, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, was developing "contacts with the Cuban opposition and churches that are not members of Cuban Council of Churches because this is believed to be a good way of helping those in need who do not receive support from official institutions".
She said her organization would be willing to host a meeting in the Czech Republic where member churches of the WCC could discuss how to help and support Cuban Christians.
With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.
[Also on Ekklesia: WCC speaks up for Cuban churches in US sanctions row 11/07/06; Bush report may ban aid and church relations with Cuba 03/07/06; US Cuba travel ban violates religious freedom, say agencies; US Anglicans seek to end Cuban isolation; Concern over forced closure of churches in Cuba; Christians face jail after President's call to visit Guant·namo; US Presbyterians call an end to Cuba travel restrictions; Bishop urges Bush to allow help for Cuba; Catholic Worker plans Guantanamo protests over Lent; US in talks to close Guantanamo Bay; Axis of evil offers to come to America's rescue; Christians told of Guantanamo Bay hunger strike; Ecumenists seek to recover evangelistic emphasis, Cuban WCC secretary says]