Friday, January 25, 2013

Government Harasses Christian Leaders and Their Families in Cuba

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Threats have been made by government officials to destroy a church property due to its affiliation with the Apostolic Movement, a fast-growing unregistered network of protestant churches. Pastor Bernardo de Quesada, a national leader of the church group, has publicly denounced an order from the Provincial Ministry of Housing that he and his wife demolish an outdoor covered patio, used by the church for meetings. The order directly contradicts written permission for construction of the patio issued by another government agency, which added that "permission for this type of construction is not necessary."

There have also been complaints that the Cuban government is targeting the family members of its leaders. In one particular case, the electricity has been cut off from the home of retired military officer Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Porfirio and his ill wife, in what they believe is an attempt to put pressure on their adult son who is a worship leader. The elderly couple have not had electricity supplied to their home since October 9, 2012, and have received no response to repeated written complaints to government officials.

Other affiliated churches have been subjected to repeated fines and had property confiscated or destroyed. A number of its leaders, including Pastor Omar Gude Perez, have been imprisoned for various lengths of time. (For more on Pastor Omar's situation, click here.)

Santa Clara
Church leaders in the Cuban city of Santa Clara have condemned the Cuban government's refusal to allow Trinidad First Baptist Church access to its bank accounts. The accounts for the historic local church, with funds amounting to approximately $27,000, were frozen by government officials in 2010. The majority of these funds were donated by churches abroad for essential repairs to the 105-year-old church, yet still remain inaccessible more than two years later.

Additional penalties applied to the church before the retirement of its former pastor included a prohibition on any foreigner travelling with a religious visa visiting the church, non-authorization of the purchase of a church van, and refusal to issue permission for the pastor to leave the country in order to attend religious conferences abroad.

Overall Increase of Persecution
There have been a total of 120 reported cases of religious freedom violations in 2012, up from a total of 30 in 2011, some of which involved entire churches and denominations and hundreds of people. One of the most severe cases involved the violent beating of Pentecostal pastor, Reutilio Columbie, early in the year. Pastor Reutilio suffered permanent brain damage as a result of the beating which he believes was orchestrated by local Communist Party officials. To date, there has been no governmental investigation into the beating carried out. (For other previous reports on events affecting Christians in Cuba, please check the Cuba Country Report.)

May our all-powerful God mediate on behalf of Cuban believers by moving the hearts of political leader Raul Castro and his government officials in favour of granting them religious freedom. Pray that the church will arise from oppression becoming a tremendous influence on the entire nation and that great exploits would take place in their midst, including the divine healing of Pastor Reutilio.

This story was originally published in our Persecution & Prayer Alert. Every week, The Persecution & Prayer Alert delivers specific prayer requests from restricted nations around the world directly to your inbox. You can also read the stories on our website. To sign up to receive the prayer alert, click here.

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