Cuban government demolishes Apostolic church; detains members

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Rev. Toledano preaching at the Emmanuel church

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, an Apostolic church attended by hundreds of members was demolished by Cuban authorities on February 5, 2016. Hundreds of church members were detained.

Emmanuel Church in eastern Cuba, an unregistered Protestant church of the Apostolic movement, led by Rev. Alain Toledano was surrounded by police officials on Friday morning. The incident occurred when the pastor was on a trip to U.S.

The officials detained pastor’s wife before demolishing the church and the pastor house and the church property including the pews, benches, and piano were confiscated.

Approximately, 200 church members were detained, some held in local school and others sent to police station.
CSW says church leaders reported that many were beaten during their detention.

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Despite the existence of legal documents proving rightful ownership, over 1,000 blocks of cement were also confiscated by the government, according to CSW.

The church building and home were privately owned by Toledano and extension work had previously been approved by the government.

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Emmanuel Church members gather after the church demolition

This is the second time Toledanos have faced the demolition of the church and pastor house.

“This series of demolitions since the New Year indicates a worrying escalation in terms of violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba,” said Mervyn Thomas, CSW’s chief executive.

Recently, Cuban government has refused to register Apostolic and other Protestant churches.

Legal Decree 322 of Cuban legistation gives sweeping powers to the government to confiscate property at their discretion and CSW has received reports from numerous registered and unregistered denominations that the law has been used to target scores of churches, including historic properties, across the island. Some religious groups have been given the option to remain in the properties as tenants as long as they pay artificially high rent to the government and submit all their activities in advance to the Communist Party for approval, but most have rejected this.