From Christian Solidarity Worldwide:
Government Pressure Intensifies in Eastern Cuba
Registered and unregistered Protestant denominations in eastern Cuba reported an intensification of government pressure on their organizations in recent weeks, including threats to confiscate or destroy church property and to deport non-Cuban residents because of their religious beliefs.
Rev. Amado Ramírez, pastor of the Maranatha First Baptist Church in the city of Holguin, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the authorities informed the church leadership that the historic property will be confiscated and the church forced to pay rent to the government. The church, which is one of the largest in the city with hundreds of members attending each week, sits on a property which has belonged to Eastern Baptist Convention since 1947. The building was built in 1992 with legal permits allowing for its construction in 1992.
Ramírez stated that until now the church has never been cited or fined by the government for any infraction. Because of overcrowding, church leadership sought permission to expand the building but had received no response from the government. The pastor was recently summoned by local Communist party officials who gave him the "...sad, unjust and arbitrary news handed down from the highest authorities of our government and the Party who have decided to confiscate our temple, not to give us the deed or to issue an order for reconstruction, but in order that we would pay the government for some undefined reason, rent to use what is already ours since this temple was built on what has been our property originally through the American Baptist Home Mission Society since 1947, far earlier than the triumph of the Revolution. We believe that this move is not only unjust and arbitrary but it violates the most basic principles of religious freedom which is protected in our Republic's Constitution."
Other churches in eastern Cuba reported threats of confiscation or destruction of property. Rev. Fausto Polemo of the Assemblies of God denomination, which is registered and recognized in Cuba, was informed by local authorities that his church in the city of Santiago de Cuba would be confiscated and demolished. He was prohibited from holding any more services. Similarly, Pastors Osmel and Madeleine de Calderón were told their church in Loma Blanca, Upper Mayarí, Santiago Province, affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, must stop holding services. Members of their church were approached by government officials and warned to stop attending the church and to distance themselves from the couple. The government refused to register the Apostolic Movement and considers it to be illegal. In addition, Pastor Ernesto Duran, who Rev.
Alain Toledano said is a young and dynamic Apostolic Movement leader in Santiago, was summoned to appear at the State Security offices in Santiago on May 7.
Leaders and members of churches linked to the Apostolic Movement in the city of Santiago also reported increasing pressure from government authorities. Rev. Toledano, one of the key Apostolic Movement leaders in Santiago, told CSW that two university students from Angola face deportation because they have been attending a church affiliated with the Apostolic Movement in Santiago. In mid-April, Iveth Pedrina Luisa Paixão and Tito Capungo were informed by Cuban immigration authorities that they were expelled from the Frank País García University for Pedagogical Sciences and will be deported.
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