"Serious And Decent Worker Seeking Employment" / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, 17 November 2016 — Discriminated against for
decades, Cuba's Jehovah's Witnesses just opened an employment
agency that focuses on the "honesty and decency" of its people. The
database "is an opportunity to advertise the skills that the brothers
have in different professions and trades," says Tamara Sanchez, one of
As a "private initiative," although it is linked to the religious
community, she describes the new project as one to connect the private
sector with "serious and decent" workers. Close relationships within the
congregation are a plus for the rapid transmission of information.
"When I look for a job with the state and they realize that I am
Jehovah's Witness they see me as a weirdo," said Mario Francisco. "I was
not a Pioneer [in elementary school] and did not wear the neckerchief,"
The young man works in the private sector as a caregiver for the
elderly. He considers that job opportunities through the agency could be
"a way to erase prejudice." He notes that he only works with families
who share his beliefs because he feels "more respected."
"Please, if you are not a witness, do not call to register (…), although
we do not doubt that you are an honest person, we can not accept your
registration," clarify the managers of the employment exchange. The
project is focused only on those who "find it very difficult to get work
in these critical times."
The Cuban government's relationship with Jehovah's Witnesses has been
tense since the coming to power of Fidel Castro. Many were interned in
the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) camps that operated on the
island between 1965 and 1968 – along with other religious believers,
homosexuals and political dissidents – while others were driven
underground and into exile.
The official animosity continues today, but some years ago the
authorities issued permits for the congregation's meeting halls to
open. "We are allowed to meet but there is no public recognition that we
exist, that we are here and we are not criminals or bad people," says
The stigma is felt strongly in teaching and working life. "There is not
a single Jehovah's Witness who is the manager of a hotel, a
hard-currency store manager or a state official," says Mario
Francisco. In his opinion, this group is still seen as "unreliable" for
The latest report on Religious Freedom in the World (2014), released by
the United States Department of State, reveals that the Cuban
authorities continue to monitor the activities of religious groups on
the island. Among the hardest hit are the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Although the Constitution, in force on the island since 1976, enacts
that "the State recognizes, respects and guarantees religious freedom,"
the Office of Religious Affairs of the Communist Party staunchly
monitors construction permits for new houses of worship.
Excessive controls have strengthened the informal networks that serve
the Witnesses to spread their beliefs from door to door, to help each
other in case of need and to warn each other of dangers. They have now
extended these networks to the job search.
Through a phone call, a text message or an e-mail sent to the organizers
of the new employment agency, applicants submit their professional
skills and contact details. The project has two databases, one public
and one private.
The public information can be read on classified site such as Revolico
and others circulate in the Weekly Packet. There are more than twenty
occupations included and they include everything from plumbing to
cooking, cleaning, medicine and jewelry making.
"Often someone would ask us for a serious, honest and responsible worker
for a job and we didn't have ways to identify the brother who would be
ideal for the position," the promoters explain. The list will favor
those who until now have been adversely affected by prejudice.
"The witnesses who are contacted for a possible job will be duly
questioned about their beliefs and their faithfulness in the service of
the Lord," they clarify. A test that Mario Francisco deems
necessary. "When people ask me for my religious beliefs, it is usually
to not give me the job… but in this case I will answer the question
Source: "Serious And Decent Worker Seeking Employment" / 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba -