Government Crackdown on Religious Freedom in Cuba
ICC Note: According to reports, the government in Cuba has increased pressure on Protestant Christian groups in the eastern region, including both registered and unregistered denominations. These threats have ranged from the possible confiscation or destruction of church property to the deportation of those who are not residents of Cuba solely on account of their faith. Despite the recent interactions between Cuba and regions with greater religious freedom, the increase in government pressure indicates that Cuba’s “government has no intention of loosening its restrictions on religious groups,” according to CSW’s Chief Operating Officer.
05/07/2015 Cuba (Christian Solidarity Worldwide) – Registered and unregistered Protestant denominations in eastern Cuba have reported an intensification of government pressure on their organisations in recent weeks, including threats to confiscate or destroy church property and to deport non-Cuban residents because of their religious beliefs.
Reverend Amado Ramírez, pastor of the Maranatha First Baptist Church in the city of Holguin, told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that the authorities have informed the church leadership that the historic property will be confiscated and the church forced to pay rent to the government. The church, which is one of the largest in the city with hundreds of members attending each week, sits on a property which has belonged to Eastern Baptist Convention since 1947. The building was built in 1992 with legal permits allowing for its construction in 1992.
Reverend Ramírez stated that until now the church has never been cited or fined by the government for any infraction. Because of overcrowding, church leadership had sought permission to expand the building but had received no response from the government. However, the pastor was recently summoned by local Communist party officials who gave him the “…sad, unjust and arbitrary news handed down from the highest authorities of our government and the Party who have decided to confiscate our temple, not to give us the deed or to issue an order for reconstruction, but in order that we would pay the government for some undefined reason, rent to use what is already ours since this temple was built on what has been our property originally through the American Baptist Home Mission Society since 1947, far earlier than the triumph of the Revolution. 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.”