PROTESTANT Churches in Cuba are facing increasing pressure and
harassment from the government, even as it begins to relax
restrictions on the Roman Catholic Church.
Advocacy groups have reported several cases where the
authorities have attempted to confiscate the land or buildings of
independent churches. The Maranatha First Baptist Church, in the
city of Holguin, has been told it must now pay rent to the
government, even though it has owned the land it worships on since
The Pastor, the Revd Amado Ramirez, told Christian Solidarity
Worldwide (CSW) that, after he had asked for permission to expand
their building, he was told instead that the government would
confiscate the building and demand the church rent it back.
"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," he said.
Another network of Evangelical churches which the Cuban
authorities have refused to formally register, the Apostolic
Movement, has also been fighting persecution from the state.
The Revd Yiorvis Bravo Denis from the Apostolic Movement was
given his home by his uncle, a former prisoner of conscience and
pastor, when they sought asylum in the United States in 2013. But
since then the government has sought to evict Mr Bravo Denis and
his family, in what CSW described as an act of retribution.
Mr Bravo Denis has been told that he can only stay in the
property if he submits all church activities to the government for
approval in advance, formally concedes that the house belongs to
the government, and pays it almost £200.
He has now filed a claim with the Inter-American Human Rights
Commission. Other churches have been arbitrarily demolished without
warning, and pastors have been imprisoned on trumped-up
In 2010, the official who runs Cuba's Office for Religious
Affairs was caught on video telling a group of Cuban church leaders
that the government would continue trying to restrict the
activities of the growing number of new Evangelical churches that
are springing up across the island.
This repression comes at a time when the Cuban government has
increasingly friendly relations with the RC Church. The President,
Raúl Castro, told reporters last month that he was so impressed
with Pope Francis that he might return to Roman Catholicism.
In 2014, for the first time since the revolution 50 years
earlier, permission was granted for a new church to be built, using
metal from the stage that Pope Benedict XVI stood on during a papal
visit to Cuba in 2012.
On Wednesday, an email from Mr Ramirez said that the authorities
had yet to make good on their threats of forcing his congregation
out of their building. Meanwhile, he reported that the church
continued to thrive. During last Sunday's service, 52 young people
responded to a call to give their lives to Jesus.