For Public Media and Beliefs Without Discrimination in Cuba

Rogelio Manuel Díaz Moreno

Photo: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — The publication of my diatribe against what appears to be a cycle of Christian cinema on Cuba’s public television has prompted a good debate on several Internet sites. In this one, commentators have referred to the film Ben Hur. Without any reservations, I want to say that I saw and enjoyed it thoroughly, and I would never fret over its connection to Judeo-Christian religion. Other films have presented us with more or less free versions of beings from Greek and Scandinavian mythology and I have enjoyed them just as much.

The film about Noah’s Ark, starring Russell Crowe, was the epicenter of my criticisms. Had it been shown as part of a different kind of television programming – as part of an adventure film series, or a catastrophe film series, or films featuring Russell Crowe – I could have watched it with other eyes, without giving it the connotation I did. Nor would I have objected to including it in a cycle of films dealing with different religions, where it could well have represented Christianity.

It could have been handled marvelously as a cultural product, with its merits and defects, which a film critic could point out far better than I could. What I find objectionable, from every conceivable point of view, is that a group of people should favor a religious doctrine by manipulating the mass media in a presumably secular State.

As I write this, another Catholic ceremony, related to the Caridad del Cobre Virgin of Charity, is being broadcasted on television. The acknowledgement of this figure in the high echelons of the Church is of great significance for many people in our country. It would be fair and entirely pertinent to cover ceremonies of such importance through an informative piece.

I also would not object to seeing the Church employ its own means to divulge the mass celebrated for the occasion in its entirety. But I would expect rational practitioners of the religion to understand that the State should not surrender a space for public persuasion as strategic as public television.

This public space does not even belong to the State, that abstract entity, or the group of bureaucrats that make up the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT). It belongs to all citizens, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Christian, Abakua, Yoruba, New Age, Jewish, Muslim and atheist, who share a roof in Cuba.

I could perhaps understand a certain degree of compromise and raise no objections to the broadcasting of a Christmas mass, if days later the Yoruba Letter of the Year ceremony is also broadcast. But we should also not neglect other specific activities that may be requested by different religious groups – and also atheists – in an organized manner. This way, sharing the public sphere, we can exorcise the specter of intolerance that has caused us so much damage.

I am expressing a conviction that is shared by many others. Trampling on the secular and impartial nature of the State and the public media is trampling on the freedoms of all citizens of all creeds.

Such freedoms are curtailed when one religious message is imposed on those who do not want to receive it, through a television broadcaster that people pay for with their taxes and work. It creates an atmosphere of discrimination against other beliefs, making these less visible and devaluating them. Lastly, it undermines the very religious faith it seeks to favor, as the voice that calls on the believer is no longer the inner voice, or that of fellow believers, but of Big Brother, moved by its own, specific interests – interests that, as we know from censored history textbooks, ought not to be trusted.

3 thoughts on “For Public Media and Beliefs Without Discrimination in Cuba

  • Noticed any problems of terrorism by Islamic extremists lately. I cite Malaysia, Russia, Kenya, the UK, Spain, the US as mere starters – but the list goes on and on.
    I could but will not bother to delve into the Independence of India and the various participants different roles although I knew one of them personally. But for you interest I have argued that Fidel Castro Ruz could have gone down in the history books along with Gandhi and Mandela if he had following a period of 5-6 years of control held open free elections in a democratic Cuba instead of establishing a repressive communist dictatorship giving him the power and control which he relished.

  • I do not think it makes much sense to single out Islam. Buddhism is seen as a religion of peace but some followers in Sri Lanka and Burma have advocated murder of followers of other religions. Go back to 1492 and it was Christianity that expelled Jews from Spain and the Ottoman empire that saved their lives. I do not think the corporal punishment suggested in the Koran is better or worse than what is said in parts of the Old Testament or the attitude towards women for that matter.. Many Nazi terrorists claimed to be Christians although by no means all. Sufism is not violent and the practitioners are Muslims. You may not have heard of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, often referred to as the Muslim Gandhi, a Pashtun, who created a non-violent Muslim movement for the independence from Britain.

  • Although a non-believer, I am happy for those who have belief as it eases their minds (they would say souls). Christianity like all religions has its extreme elements like the reigious right – with the southern Baptists playing their role and the development of the US Tea Party. But Christianity does not pose a world threat as does Islam.
    Islam is wreaking havoc with societies world wide. It is time that we – the infidels – said to Islam: Don’t dump your inter-denominational hatreds upon us, discuss and resolve them within your own circles – get your Imams to have discussion about their differences l proselyinstead of advocating violence.
    US Secretary of State Kerry has in his endeavors to bring middle east countries together said that “Islam is a peaceful religion”. Prime Minister Cameron of the UK has similarly said: “Islam is a religion of peace.” These statements are obviously tongue in cheek political rhetoric.
    Whereas it is correct that there are Muslims who are peaceful law abiding citizens in various countries of residence who understandably say: “Not all Muslims are terrorists”, it is fair in response to ask: “What percentage of terrorists are Muslims?”. This is a valid question in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. Even Mr. Putin struggles with Islamic terrorists as does China.
    Cuba has virtually no immigrants – people fleeing repression and seeking freedom are understandably not going to immigrate to Cuba and the 2012 National Census showed that only a mere 5,600 residents were not born in Cuba. The country unlike the free western democracies does not offer refuge to political and racial refugees and so has a marked degree of immunity to the problems posed by Islam. Yes, it will have to deal with the problems of increasing numbers of Cubans joining evangelical proselytizing US based churches, especially Jehovahs Witnesses who are rapidly developing, but Christianity is a minor problem compared with Islam.
    The main and obvious problems of the religious, is that each of them know that they are correct because their teachings are that “God” is on their side. Consequently if others disagree with them, the others must be wrong. To them, those of us who think of “God” as a myth are sacrilegious. But then we too think we are right!

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