Ladies in White

Cuba’s War on Christianity: Evangelical Church Demolished Overnight
Reuters
by FRANCES MARTEL12 Jan 2016

The pastor of an underground Evangelical church in Camagüey, Cuba, has
denounced the communist government for leveling the building in which he
holds religious services as a warning to others that openly practicing
Christianity on the island will result in government persecution.

On Friday morning, communist officials executed a pre-dawn raid on the
church of Pastor Bernardo de Quesada Salómon – an Evangelical church
known as the Apostolic Movement – arrested the pastor, and tore down the
church building. While initial reports indicated that communist
officials had only torn the roof off the building, Quesada himself has
confirmed to the independent Cuban outlet 14 y medio that the building
“does not exist; it was demolished entirely.”

14 y medio notes that the government has targeted the church since 2012,
alleging a zoning violation involving the use of the premises for
religious activity. In December, Camagüey’s planning board issued an
order of demolition for the building, though Quezada denies that his
family has violated any law by praying in the building.

“Everything that is independent or has nothing to do with the official
government bothers them, they don’t like it,” Quezada told the
publication after being released following his arrest. “They see us as a
danger because our churches are growing the most, have the most new
people coming in,” he adds, noting that he opened his church in 2013
after becoming disillusioned with the church he previously belonged to
working in concert with the Castro dictatorship.

After opening his new church, he noted, government officials accused him
of running “a church operated by the CIA,” an accusation Quezada
vehemently denies.

The America-based Martí Noticias reports that Quezadas is one of
“various home-churches run by Christian pastors demolished” in recent
memory. While the Camagüey incident appears the most egregious of the
year so far, Martí Noticias notes that at least one other Christian
facility has been leveled in Las Tunas province and its pastor, Juan
Carlos Núñez, has also been arrested.

Catholic churches in Cuba have fared slightly better than their
Protestant counterparts, largely because Catholicism is one of the few
religious one can practice legally in Cuba. The preservation of Catholic
facilities can be in part attributed to Havana Archbishop Jaime Ortega,
who has kept close ties to the Castro dictatorship despite the official
state imposition of Marxist atheism as a guiding philosophy. Ortega has
denied the existence of political prisoners on the island, calling
dissidents “former delinquents” with “no culture.” In the Vatican, Pope
Francis has made highly questionable remarks regarding prisoners of
conscience on the island, as well. In July, in response to a question
about the suppression of Christianity in Cuba, Pope Francis told a
reporter, “There are some countries and also some European countries
where you cannot make a sign of religion, for different reasons, and on
other continents the same.” He also denied knowing anything about a
political arrest that occurred right in front of him in Havana, as a man
was violently hauled away for shouting the word “freedom” in the
vicinity of the Pope.

Not all officials have taken this line within the Catholic church,
however. A former official, in fact, has said that a majority of
Catholic leadership in Cuba disagrees with Ortega’s approach to the
dictatorship. Lenier González, former editor of a Catholic magazine,
said in a recent interview that he found “a very strong resistance
within the Church, in the clergy… because the Church was used to giving
space to voices critical of the government.” “They would have preferred
a more belligerent magazine against the government,” he added, noting
that much of the Church has “a monolithic view… regarding the
illegitimacy of the Revolution.”

Such dissidence within Ortega’s ranks became clear in December, when
Pinar del Rio Bishop Jorge Serpa directly contradicted Ortega and
condemned the practice of imprisoning political dissidents in Cuba. We
do have cases of political prisoners, persons serving long sentences for
whom I have requested a review on behalf of the Church, and I will not
tire of doing so,” Serpa said.

Members of the Catholic Church who also vocally disagree with communism
have become some of the most targeted dissidents on the island. The
Ladies in White, a dissident group comprised of female relatives of
political prisoners, is predominantly Catholic and collectively attends
weekly Mass on Sundays in Havana. Each Sunday, dozens – sometimes
hundreds – are detained, usually violently. In June, at least one church
banned the Ladies in White from practicing Catholicism in their church.
This Sunday, at least 50 members of the Ladies in White were detained,
some beaten violently and dragged into police vehicles by their hair. A
total of 300 people in Santiago de Cuba and Havana are believed to have
been arrested; those not belonging to the Ladies in White are believed
to be members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), another dissident
group.

“It was violent and very aggressive; in other occasions they have been
aggressive, but this time, they came to attack and injure,” UNPACU
leader Antonio Rodiles told El Nuevo Herald.

Violent arrests have increased notably since December 2014, when
President Barack Obama announced major concessions to the Castro regime.
One estimate found that political arrests in Cuba increased 70 percent
between January and March 2015. 1,093 arbitary political arrests
occurred in October 2015 alone.

Source: Cuba’s War on Christianity: Evangelical Church –
www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/01/12/government-destroys-evangelical-church-in-cuba/

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