Thursday, September 8, 2022

Feast Day for Cuba's Our Lady Charity, the founding of the Christian Liberation Movement and the importance of truth

Virgin of Charity and the three Juanes

For the past four centuries, since the Virgin of Charity appeared to the three Juanes in the Bay of Nipe in 1612, She has been a source of popular devotion among Cubans and on May 10, 1916 forever linked with Cuban independence when Pope Benedict XV proclaimed Her Patroness of Cuba in response to a request by veterans of the Cuban war of independence. Since then She has also been known as the Virgin Mambisa. Since 1959 She has accompanied the Cuban diaspora.

She has remained a powerful force in Cuba over the past 63 years, despite efforts to impose atheism.

Jesús Mustafá Felipe at Solemn Mass for Our Lady of Charity

34 years ago on September 8, 1988, the Feast Day for Cuba's Our Lady Charity, a handful of Cubans, lay Catholics, consisting of Oswaldo Payá, Ramón Antúnez, Dagoberto Capote, Santiago Cárdenas and Fernando Arvelo, inspired by their faith, the strength of their ideals and love for their country, founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), to work for the recovery of popular sovereignty and national reconciliation in Cuba.

 "Liberation is our purpose, liberation carried out by the people, who will not be a spectator of the moment in which their destiny is decided. We do not call all against each other, but all for a new Cuba. We reject violence, offense, lies and destruction as means of struggle. We do not believe that the end justifies the means. Our goal is to achieve freedom, justice and this is achieved only moved by love. Freedom is true only if it emanates from love. "
Since then, many Cubans joined the Christian Liberation Movement and given their best for their homeland. Some are no longer physically here, and some of them were murdered by the dictatorship.  

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas described how the Christian Liberation Movement, a democratic opposition movement, came into existence and explained how it was related to the birth of his first child, Oswaldo José.

“When our first child was going to be born, we have three children, we said that our children cannot live in a country without liberty and we are not going to another country to seek freedom. Therefore we have to fight for our children to live free here in Cuba and everyone else's children and their parents too.”    
Oswaldo José was born on February 17, 1988 and the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was founded that same year on September 8, 1988.   Oswaldo Payá was killed on July 22, 2012 along with the movement's youth leader Harold Cepero. 

The Castro dictatorship has a hostile relationship with religion since the beginning when it officially declared itself an atheist state and expelled scores of priests from Cuba on September 17, 1961, canceled Christmas in 1969 under the pretext to prevent work shortages for the 1970 ten million ton sugar harvest but continued the ban until 1997, and sent mobs to intimidate Cubans attending religious services.  

Priests were taken at gun point and forced out of Cuba in 1961

This is not what was promised by the revolutionaries when they took power in Cuba.  Fidel Castro on January 11, 1959 went  on Face the Nation and promised free, multiparty elections within 18 months. Richard Bate of CBS News pressed the Cuban dictator.

Richard Bate: Dr. Castro you said that in 18 months or so there will be free elections in Cuba. When this time comes will all political parties be able to run candidates in these elections?

Fidel Castro: Yes, of course

Richard Bate: All political parties including the Directorio?

Fidel Castro: Of course, if we don't give free to all the political parties to organize we are not a democratic country. We have fought for the democracy here, and for the free ... for the the freedom of our people. We don't want to stop and to put any difficulties to anybody. We believe in democracy. 

Richard Bate: Why would it be necessary to wait 18 months before free elections to be held?

Fidel Castro: Well, do you think it is good for the Cubans When all the people want peace. When all the people is that the government repair the mistakes and the barbarity of the before government. Don't you believe that our country at least one year to work? Do you believe that between... in the fight of the political parties is it possible to do anything? If we give a free election tomorrow we win because we have almost all the people ...

In Matthew 7:15-7:16 the Gospel states "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits." From the very beginning, truth has often been a casualty of the communist regime in Cuba.

Father Miguel Angel Loredo (1998)

Father Miguel Angel Loredo was a prisoner of conscience of the Castro dictatorship because he refused to go along with the lies of the regime. Father Loredo understood that one of the most formidable weapons against injustice is objective truth, and here he explained why.

"I believe we should denounce the evils of both the right and the left. I find selective denunciation, that has political roots repugnant. If you believe in the integrity of the human being you must believe deeply in objective denunciation. Without objectivity, there is no hope."

Monsignor Agustin Roman in an essay on the importance of the Cuban dissident movement in Cuba described the role that the truth played in its genesis:

The concept of nonviolent civil resistance is introduced into the history of Cuba. Take the truth as a weapon, placing it in practice in the civic field, what Scripture proposed in the spiritual realm: "the truth shall make you free". Hence its importance at that time and its transcendence for the future of Cuba.

If the truth shall make you free then what does the lie offer? The Ochoa case offers a dramatic answer. In June of 1989, General Arnaldo Ochoa is arrested. 

He had been declared a “Hero of the Revolution” by Fidel Castro in 1984 but by 1989 was deemed too dangerous by Castro because he feared that General Ochoa had been contaminated by the ideas of Glasnost and Perestroika while visiting the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era. 

He was also popular within the ranks of the military due to his exploits in Africa. General Ochoa was accused of conspiracy and treason. He was also tied to drug smuggling and corruption. Ochoa was approached by Fidel Castro with the offer that if he confessed to everything he had been accused of and did not mount a vigorous defense that he could go home into retirement.

General Ochoa  went along with the lie and pled guilty in an abject fashion reminiscent Stalinist show trials of the 1930s. He was executed days later by firing squad on July 13, 1989, with a tainted reputation.

Father José Conrado and Father Juan Lázaro Vélez preside over Mass for Matanzas victims.

During a special mass for the victims of the Matanzas oil fire in Miami on September 6th, Father Conrado acknowledged that "although we are far from the Homeland, those of us who left to find freedom, also feel and suffer for Cuba, because the Homeland belongs to everyone" paraphrasing José Martí, the apostle of Cuban independence. Father Conrado issued a call in the name of Jesus and the Virgin "so that we Cubans break the spell of evil that has taken over the island" and for this he called for the unity of all Cubans, "those of the two shores”.

Today, the Christian Liberation Movement has issued a statement underscoring its continued commitment to a free Cuba, and highlighting the plight of Yandier Garcia Labrada, who is currently jailed for nonviolently protesting the regime. 

Congratulations to all the initiators, to those who have been consistent with our principles and values all these years, to those who have maintained the banner of Liberation from the island and in exile against all odds. To Yandier who is in a cell today, but is freer than all his jailers and repressors. To those who gave everything for Cuba, for this Movement and are no longer with us physically but continue to be by our side in spirit.  
Congratulations "liberationists"!!! 
Oswaldo and Harold Live!!! 
 All Cubans. All Brothers And Now Freedom! 

Today is a also good day to remember Václav Havel's  hopeful call: "May truth and love triumph over lies and hatred." May it be so.

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