1,400 Assemblies of God Churches Demolished, Confiscated by Cuba, Report
BY ANUGRAH KUMAR , CHRISTIAN POST CONTRIBUTOR
August 18, 2016|5:35 p
The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide has recorded more than
1,600 religious freedom violations in Cuba in the first six months of
this year, highlighting the communist government's crackdown of
churches, especially the beginning of a process which involves
confiscation of 1,400 Assemblies of God churches.
The violations include demolition and confiscation of church buildings,
destruction of church property, arbitrary detention and other forms of
harassment, particularly the confiscation and seizure of personal
belongings of religious leaders, according to the report, which adds,
"Over 1,000 Protestant churches are still under threat of confiscation
and have not had their 'illegal' status overturned."
Since January 2016, the government has demolished four large churches
linked to the Apostolic Movement, in three different parts of the
country: in Camaguey and Santiago, and two in Las Tunas, the report says.
CSW found that each church demolition has followed a similar pattern:
"police and state security agents block main roads surrounding the
church, in many cases dragging pastors and their families out of bed in
the very early hours of the morning, detaining them in separate police
stations for the duration of the demolition."
The report notes that Legal Decree 322 remains in effect. The
legislation was announced on Sept. 5, 2014 and came into effect on Jan.
5, 2015, and was supposedly established to regulate private properties
and enforce zoning laws. "However, it has been and is being used by
government officials to seize church properties."
In 2015 around 2,000 churches linked to the Assemblies of God
denomination, the largest Protestant denomination in the country, were
declared illegal by the government, the report says. At least 1400 of
these church buildings, many of which are house churches, are "in the
process of being expropriated by the government – despite the fact that
the denomination has refused to sign the orders of confiscation."
The government had verbally promised early this year not to go ahead
with the expropriation, but "neither the ORA nor the Ministry of Housing
have made any effort to halt this process," the report adds.
"The government continues to employ arbitrary detention to target church
leaders perceived as 'uncooperative', with nine such violations
occurring since January 2016 (including those detained during
demolitions)," it goes on to say.
"In one of the most serious cases, Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso
was arrested on 20 March, just hours before US President Barack Obama
arrived in Cuba on an official visit. Rev Lleonart Barroso's wife and
two young daughters were placed under house arrest during the 55 hours
he was held."
Government agents also continued to publicly harass and detain dozens of
women across the country every week on their way to Sunday Mass. "These
women, affiliated with the Ladies in White group, a non-violent human
rights movement, are systematically detained on a weekly basis. In most
cases they are violently dragged away by security agents as they leave
their homes, or as they arrive at services," CSW says. "On most Sundays
over 80 women are arrested. They are detained until Mass is concluded,
after which many are dropped off in remote locations and left to find
their own way home."
"CSW is alarmed by the escalation of FoRB violations throughout Cuba,
but humbled and inspired by the courage and perseverance of the many
religious communities who continue to peacefully resist government
pressure," CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said. "We remain
disappointed by the broken promises for reform on the part of the Cuban
government and urge it to change course. We call on the international
community and in particular the United Kingdom, European Union and the
United States government to stand in solidarity with Cuban citizens by
pressing the Cuban government to halt these repressive actions and
ensuring that human rights, and in particular FoRB, remains a core
component of any upcoming dialogues with the Cuban government."
Cuba has been governed by a one-party state ever since Fidel Castro
overthrew the U.S.-supported dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Of the roughly 11 million people in Cuba, an estimated 6 million are
Christian. About 1 million of them are evangelicals. The actual number
could be higher, as the church is growing fast.
Source: 1,400 Assemblies of God Churches Demolished, Confiscated by
Cuba, Report Says -