They say discrimination is still something common in this day and age; but the moment you stumble upon it in a concrete form, a shiver runs up your back.
Strongly evident in the 1970’s was the separation established between the Cuban movement to build a socialist society and groups like the Abakuas (a secret Afro-Cuban sect that originated during slavery) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each current ran along its own path. At that time these religious associations were considered to be posed against the revolutionary aims that had united the Cuban people under a single ideology.
Rumors were spread that the Abakuas (or “ñáñigos”) abducted children, and pamphlets were circulated explaining the so-called prohibitions of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Such efforts rejected all the diverse forms of Cuban religion. These days we take it for granted that religious believers receive much better treatment and that they can openly express their belief in God. In fact, this actually does occur in the cases of most believers and with the more popular belief systems.
However, I just talked to a Jehovah’s Witness who I’ve known for years, having been neighbors. He told me about what happens to his children at school.
These children —raised in the same neighborhood as others, playing the same games and going to the same elementary and junior high schools— are now they’re trying to figure out what they’re going to do in life as future professionals.
The 16-year-old was suspended in his last year of high school for not attending the class on national defense. The fact is that he doesn’t approve of fomenting war.
Similarly, the 15-year-old was not accepted into the program to become a teacher, but nor was she allowed any other option. This girl is seen to by a group that gives “special assistance to minors,” which means that she’s considered a teenager who is at-risk, risk of becoming involved in wrongful or illegal activities, mainly because of her behavior.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have more than a few detractors in the world, and Cuba is no exception. The organization is often criticized for its door-to-door preaching, its low credibility (believing in the resurrection of its members with the coming of the Armageddon) and for not allowing blood transfusions, though this can mean the saving of a life – at least according to the way we see it.
They are considered insistent and unrelenting by the rest of the population and the government. They do not embrace our national symbols or participate in elections (what person should decide on the lives of others?), and they are opposed to war.
But people! The truth is that we don’t know what future road a social being will take as they grow, despite their moral or religious circumstances or background. To impede their full development because they don’t think the same as us, or because they don’t hold our same assumptions about reality, I find atrocious.
It’s not astonishing to discover —in Cuba— people who are masters at judging the situations of others. They impose their interpretation of the truth. They determine that they have the right to decide on the fate of another person and perhaps even punish them for being different, or they treat them as inferior.
The parents of these two youth trust in the laws of God and not in human’s laws, and what about us?