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BosNewsLife – Cuban police forces closed down a Christian printing press and detained a pastor for distributing “subversive” materials amid a nationwide government crackdown on house churches and pro-democracy activists on the Communist island, dissident sources and human rights investigators said Tuesday, October 18.
The US-based religious rights group The Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM) said Cuban police “raided a home and confiscated printed Gospels of John and a small printing press,” October 9 in the city of Colon, about 100 kilometers (62.5 miles) east of the capital Havana.
“Five plain-clothes secret police [first] entered the house [and soon] a truck [with] 12 armed, uniformed police took the Gospels and the press. Officials called the materials “subversive and dangerous,” VOM added.
Police also detained Pastor Eliseo Rodriguez Matos, the leader of an Assembly of God church, who supported the printing press, VOM added. Police then called Minister of Religion Señora Caridad Diego in Havana , “an atheist who supports the Communist government in restricting evangelism,” VOM said. The Ministry of Religion allegedly supported the raid saying the printing press is “very dangerous.” Ministry officials did not comment.
“We agree with the government’s assessment,” said Tom White, Executive Director of VOM USA in a message to BosNewsLife. “The Word of God is dangerous [as] it can produce eternal freedom in the midst of evil tyranny.” White was a prisoner in Cuba 25 years ago, after a plane from which he was dropping Christian leaflets crash landed there.
The incident comes at a time when Cuba ‘s Communist government has threatened to demolish house churches after authorities recently outlawed most of them. “Many house churches have had equipment such as pews, homemade benches, musical instruments, Christian literature and anything else confiscated by police,” said VOM, which has close contacts with persecuted Christians in Cuba .
Under the new measures, services that have not been “authorized” are reportedly banned, while only one house church of any denomination can exist within two kilometers (1.25 miles) of each other. Foreigners cannot attend house churches in mountainous areas and require permission to attend them elsewhere. Violations will lead to the closure of the church and fines of up to $1,000, said human rights group Forum 18 recently in an investigation.
There is apparently concern among Communist officials over Protestant church attendance which has roughly tripled since 1989 to 300,000 people, with an additional 100,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to church estimates. Catholic attendance is estimated around 150,000. Many Christians gather in unofficial house churches as their congregations have been denied permission to operate, church leaders and human rights groups say…[Go To Full Story]