Dear Latin American pastors:
Welcome to our homeland.
This gathering of bishops from Latin America is taking place in a country that has been seen for very long and by many people as only a symbol. This symbol varies significantly depending under which prism it is seen.
For many, Cuba has been a sanctuary of their ideology, while an entire people have been stifled and shackled in the name of this ideology.
For others, Cuba has been an ideal of liberation, while for Cubans themselves liberty has been their most denied and most coveted right for many decades.
For others, it has been a border from which to act out a confrontation with the North, while we Cubans only want to live with dignity, as an independent and free nation, but in peace with all people, including our neighbors to the North.
For others, Cuba has been a hopeless nation, because it supposedly accepts the reality of totalitarianism, yet our people have not stopped loving and generating good acts that can not be erased, and have never chosen to live in this system without rights that has been imposed upon it.
Others speak about the Cubans inside and those on the outside, as if there were two Cuba’s, without understanding that separation and exile have been the most painful punishments inflicted upon the Cuban people, precisely because we are all only one people, inseparable and indivisible, with only one heart, and the same pain and the same hope, children of the same mother, the Virgin of Charity.
I hope for us to no longer be seen through any prism that skews reality; but rather to be seen directly, which would reveal that that we are not a revolution, nor a symbol, nor a culmination of an ideology, or an experiment, nor a boundary of history, but rather:
More than eleven million human beings, God’s children, and for this reason we are entitled to our rights.
We are God’s children and that is why we have the same vocation of love, brotherhood, justice, peace and freedom as all human beings and all the peoples of the world.
Our Church and all the Christians in Cuba, of all denominations, have been treated in the same way, almost always judged and pointed out by many. We do not boast about the power that we have never had, nor sought, but of the persecution that we have endured.
Persecution in the midst of silence, the absence of solidarity and even the justification and complacency of some. Among them, those who with their theories and even their theology, have excluded from the reach of liberation those of us who are subjected to oppression in the name of Marxist ideology or the “revolution.”
Others continue to do the same, in other latitudes and meridians, in the name of their ideologies.
We have been like a spectacle to the world. But Jesus Christ liberates us all and the Gospel does not exclude anybody. God does not deny anyone freedom and dignity, but gives His love to all, believers and non-believers.
Our society suffered and continues to suffer the perverse attempt at forced de-Christianization, which began under the motto “religion is the opium of the masses.” But the people discovered that those who want to expel God from history and from our lives, are only disloyally creating a culture of fear and an environment that is propitious to the establishment of a form of slavery.
From the Gospel we have learned that the Church can not silence its prophetic voice when men and women are oppressed and when they are denied their rights and freedoms.
Christians must not keep silent and neither should all the victims, who are the first to be called upon to reclaim their own rights and in this way, as Pope Juan Paul II announced; “become the protagonists of their own history.” This is liberation.
We proclaim a truth: The Church in Cuba, oppressed as are its people and small, in the midst of persecution, interferences, and a multitude of threats and pressures from political power, faithful to Jesus Christ, has always evangelized and it has always provided shelter for those that do not have shelter.
For a long time now in Latin America, the people have sought a more just order that allows for the marginalized multitudes to attain a more dignified life and changes have been achieved through civic means and not through violence.
But if in the name of social justice and the redemption of the poor, citizens are stripped of or denied liberty of expression and other civil and political rights, the people are instead drawn into a pitfall in which the rights through which they could earlier decide democratically the changes they wanted have been taken away.
When this happens, as it has in Cuba, the poor no longer have a voice, not even with which to proclaim that they are poor. Democracy is not real if it is not able to build justice. And justice is not truly present, nor can it be achieved, if the civil rights and freedoms of the citizenry are denied.
Today, many of our Cuban brothers are imprisoned unjustly for proclaiming and defending the rights of Cubans, for promoting dialogue and reconciliation, for promoting peaceful changes so that the laws respect the rights of all Cubans, inspired by a Cuban priest, a role model because of his holiness and patriotism, who was known as Father Félix Varela.
These prisoners are confined along with common prisoners, under inhumane conditions, and have suffered severe deterioration of their health. From the prisons, they are a testimony of the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives, which have been dedicated to the liberation of their people through love.
Our prison brothers and all of us, during these days, will pray for you and with you, our Latin American pastors, so that your Thirty-first meeting is also illuminated by the Holy Spirit.
Today our people are sentenced to the doctrine which proclaims that the only alternative to this order is death. In this way, they try to close the doors of the future with a fatalistic wall of hate and fear.
Nevertheless, what prevails in the hearts and minds of Cubans, and we believe in that of all Cubans, of all political positions and experiences, is the desire for changes, for reconciliation, for healing through forgiveness, for looking ahead and building peace, as free men and women.
We will do it, we will build a more just, more fraternal and more humane society, by taking everything good that has been created through love, and putting behind us what divides us, what oppresses us and what denies us our rights. We can only achieve it as our apostle José Martí said: “with all and for the good of all.” This is liberation.
Liberation cannot be from hate, or with hate, cannot be through denying your neighbor, or excluding any human being, but only through love and through recognizing in every Cuban, in every human being, a brother.
It is toward this path that our movement works, in the midst of persecution, for a National Dialogue, for the legal recognition of all rights for all Cubans and for National Reconciliation.
Our people are not immersed in the shades, but know that the light exists and are walking towards its encounter. It is God’s light, which illuminates hearts, which is the source of hope and liberation for all Cubans.
Your vocation is liberty, and for the same cause, ours as well.
Oswaldo José Paya Sardiñas, Minervo Lázaro Chil Siret
In the Name of the Coordinating Council
Christian Liberation Movement
Havana, July 10, 2007