Please pray for the ongoing unrest in Cuba, after protests erupted in the country in July. Two pastors were detained during these protests and have since been released, although they still face criminal charges – but the Cuban church is becoming emboldened to speak out against the government and condemn the use of violence against protestors by the authorities.
Thousands of Cuban citizens - church leaders among them - took to the streets in July in protest against the government
Two pastors who were arrested and imprisoned during the recent protests in Cuba have been released, but are still facing criminal charges.
A pastor in Cuba messaged Open Doors asking for prayer and reported that pastors Yeremi Ramírez and Yarian Madrigal ‘went to the street next to their church during the protest and filmed it with their cell phones. When they did this, they were arrested and taken directly to Combinado Sur, a prison in Matanzas, to a wing under the control of the political police (Department of State Security)’.
Meanwhile, another pastor, Lorenzo Fajardo, is still being held in a prison in Santiago de Cuba. Since his arrest more than two weeks ago, nothing has been heard from him – and his wife has not been allowed to visit him.
Thousands of Cubans took to the streets on Sunday 11 July, calling for democracy and economic reforms after months of frustration from food and medicine shortages, as well as a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections. People from all walks of life, including church leaders, joined the largest protests seen in the country in decades.
Sadly, the repercussions were immediate and violent. Police and security beat up protestors and arrested hundreds of people. Electricity was shut off in parts of the country and access to internet was cut or restricted.
While in the past churches have been careful not to criticise the government, following these protests many of them have published statements ‘condemning the government’s invocation of violence, affirming the right to peaceful freedom of expression and the validity of the protesters’ demands, and calling on the authorities to listen and respond to them’, reported Christianity Today.
Four days before the start of the protests, churches and church leaders in Cuba called for a day of prayer and fasting because of the dire situation in the country. Church leaders of all denominations reported that they were ‘increasingly under surveillance and had been interrogated and threatened’.
Mario Barrosso, a Cuban pastor who now lives as a refugee in the US, told Open Doors that government policy towards churches has been one of ‘reorganisation’. “‘Reorganisation’ can be understood as trying to maintain the power of the Communist party,” he said. The two-pronged policy aims to either financially suffocate a church through fines or – when it is not registered – treat it as an illegal entity.
The Covid-19 pandemic has only increased the pressure. Under the pretext of controlling the Covid-19 crisis, there have been frequent cases of impossibly high fees being imposed on churches, of Christian materials being confiscated, of churches being hindered in their distribution of humanitarian assistance, of stronger monitoring of church leaders' activities, of arbitrary arrests and much more.
Persecution against Christians is increasing in Cuba, which has risen on the Open Doors World Watch List from number 61 in 2020 to 51 in 2021.
Please pray with us for pastors Yeremi, Yarian, Lorenzo and Mario – and for Cuba.
Explore Among the Ashes, a new film and prayer resource for churches from Open Doors. It looks at how the biblical principle of lament can bring us hope and comfort, even in the darkest situations.
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