Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Hidden Pastors Of Cuba’s Evangelical Churches

The Hidden Pastors Of Cuba's Evangelical Churches / 14ymedio, Ricardo

14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 26 June 2016 – Religious
visas for foreign pastors invited to Christian events exist in all
countries, but in Cuba they serve as a mechanism of repression and
blackmail by the state, with the aim of silencing the voices that are
raised against it within the Christian community.

When this kind of visa is requested, the Cuban government demands that
the churches submit a detailed schedule of the places where the
foreigners will be and where they will stay, from the time of their
arrival in the country until their departure. If the itinerary includes
any of the churches that express disagreement with state policies, then
the request for entry into the country is denied.

In addition, the Cuban governments demands that the church councils
submit all the data on the preachers involved before offering them a
visa, and if they are found to be associated with any NGO in their
countries of origin that does not sympathize with "the Cuban cause," the
request is denied. If everything for one pastor is "in order," according
to their preferences, but the event has also invited other pastors who
dissent from the communist process, the visa will probably be denied.
Faced with this stark reality, the Christian community has been forced
to hide foreign pastors who are invited to preach at their events.

This generates persecution by the Department of Immigration and Aliens,
which levies heavy fines on offending churches or pressures their guests
to leave the conference venue. On many occasions we have seen police
operations mounted to stop pastors, as if they were drug dealers, who
manage to make it to our activities.

How can the Church hide these preachers? It requires a great deal of
audacity. The basic thing is to omit the names in the conference
programs that are made public, and to have the guests travel on a
tourist visa (sometimes through a third country) and reach the island by
way of an airport in another province.

When they enter with a tourist visa (at least in theory) they can move
freely around the country. That means it is not illegal for them to be
in one of our churches and, if found with microphone in hand, we can
always claim that they are "witnessing" (a term in Christian speech that
is similar to preaching) rather than lecturing. As a security measure,
these preachings are not made public through audios or videos, in case
they might appear on social networks and become incriminating evidence
against us.

While this happens with pastors of all nationalities, most abused are
the Americans, because they provide most of the financial support for
our congregations. This support is not some "Machiavellian plan of the
Empire." The Cuban Evangelical Church has had its roots in American
congregations since 1900, when they began sending evangelists to our
country, who established what we know today.

By denying US religious pastors visas, the Cuban government "punishes"
the rebellious churches twice, because not only do they prevent their
members from listening to the words of the guest, but they also cut off
all possible financial aid.

That this happens in our country is contrary to the Constitution, which
states in Chapter 1 Article 8: "The State recognizes, respects and
guarantees religious freedom. In the Republic of Cuba, religious
institutions are separate from the state. The different beliefs and
religions enjoy equal consideration."

How much longer will we have to wait for our religious freedom to be
recognized and guaranteed? And above all: What is the government waiting
for to start respecting our rights?

Source: The Hidden Pastors Of Cuba's Evangelical Churches / 14ymedio,
Ricardo Fernandez – Translating Cuba -

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