http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/cuba_shuts_down_churches_amid_controversy_over_law_group_reports/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Cuba Shuts Down Churches Amid Controversy Over Law, Group Reports

Posted January 12, 2006 by Cubana in Cuba Politics.
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HAVANA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)—The Communist government of Cuba has closed down at least three Protestant churches following new “harsh legislation” on house churches, a religious rights group said Monday, January 9.

UK-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife it has learned that “two of the churches, in the western provinces of Guantanamo and Holguin, were forcibly closed.” CSW said that “the first was confiscated by local authorities in August and the other threatened with demolition at the end of last year.” A third church, in a suburb of Havana, was demolished while church members looked on at the end of 2005, CSW added.  All were allegedly accused of being ‘illegal constructions’ by the authorities to justify the closures.

NEW MEASURES

The new legislation, Directive 43 and Resolution 46, was reportedly announced in April following Pope John Paul II’s funeral, and required all house churches to register with the authorities. Under other 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. “Church leaders expressed their concern at the time that the registration process was so complicated as to be practically impossible.  Many believed that this was actually an attempt to shut down the house church movement across the island,” CSW explained in a statement.

MORE CHURCHES SUFFER

It was likely that additional churches also met with a similar fate, but because of security concerns regarding communication in Cuba, this has been impossible to verify, the group explained.

“We learned of these church closures, confiscation and demolition with deep concern,” said CSW National Director Stuart Windsor. “We are calling on the international community to strongly discourage the Cuban government from taking any more measures that would restrict the rights of the Cuban people to meet and worship together. In addition, we call upon the Cuban government to return those buildings that have already been confiscated, allow for the re-opening of those that have been shut down, and authorise the reconstruction of the church that has already been demolished,” Windsor said. However Cuban officials have denied human rights abuses and say they only crackdown on those undermining the revolution of Cuba’s longtime leader Fidel Castro. The Cuban leader has also denied the existence of “dissidents”, and has suggested that those opposing his government are mainly “mercenaries of the United States,” hired to fight against his revolutionary ideas. (With reports from Cuba and BosNewsLife Research).

Member Comments

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On January 12, 2006, Danny Haszard wrote:

What goes around comes around,Jehovah’ Witnesses have no tolerance for their own dissident members either.
——-
All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men/women to do nothing-Danny Haszard Bangor Maine [url=http://www.dannyhaszard.com]http://www.dannyhaszard.com[/url]

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On January 12, 2006, ElaineMiami wrote:

I think it’ interesting that the only religious sect the article mentioned were the Jehovah’ Witnesses. 

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On January 12, 2006, ElaineMiami wrote:

This article warrants details of the sequence of events that led up to the church closings.  Although I believe in freedom of religion, every situation needs to be looked at within it’ own unique context if it is to be analyzed and/or critized intelligently.  First, Jehovah’ Witnesses are persecuted everywhere, not just in Cuba.  Second, they’re openly anti-government/anti-society.  I’m not judging them or condoning persecution, I’m merely pointing out facts about JW’. As for my personal opinion, I find it difficult to feel much respect for a group of people who prefer to let a child die than to allow a simple blood transfusion to save his life.

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On January 12, 2006, Cubana wrote:

The christian solidarity worldwide website, from which this report emanates, does not mention the Jehovah’ Witnesses, although this is not to say that none of the “house churches” were such. The detailed report is available at:
http://www.csw.org.uk/latestnews/article.php?id=467

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On January 12, 2006, CWS wrote:

This is a good example perhaps of how events that happen in Cuba can take on exaggerated negative weight. If I were to start a church in my house, do you think I might have a problem with “zoning regulations”, etc? American life is also regulated in such matters, like many other places. On the other hand, there was a tradition of non-Catholic evangelical Christian worship (Seventh Day Adventists) in rural areas of the island. One reason being the Cuban Catholic Church had become by the 1950s a rather lily-white upper-class institution, so missionaries from the U.S. filled the void in the countryside, where only a limited number of Catholic priests were drawn to serve.

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On January 12, 2006, ElaineMiami wrote:

Cubana, thanks for the link, and for the interesting topic.  I read the article, which says that “churches belonging to the government are often readily granted permission to renovate and build,” so I would suppose that the demolition of a few churches doesn’t necessarily mean it’ an assault on religion, but more likely that the land will be used for other purposes.  It also says that old buildings are sometimes too costly to repair, which could also account for the destruction of some buildings. Also, and the article doesn’t mention this, if any laws were broken, then yes, the government would respond accordingly, as any government do anywhere else in the world. CWS is right, quite often things that happen in Cuba get blown out of proportion.

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On January 12, 2006, Chuck Bailey wrote:

Communism and religion do NOT mix. He who has the gun, writes the rules. Chuck   Fidel said he was Communist back in the 50s,and hasn’t shown any change in 47 years.

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On January 12, 2006, Brenda Lee wrote:

Jehovah’ Witnesses are usually the first ones who come to mind when our society reports on religious restrictions.  What the general population does not understand is, the Watchtower (parent organization of the Jehovah’ Witnesses) wrote the book on religious restriction.  Just ask any Jehovah’ Witness what happens if one of their members steps foot in another church or dares to practice another religion.  What happens?  That person is usually excommunicated and shunned (treated as dead) by all JW family and friends for the remainder of his or her time on this planet.  If the Watchtower doesn’t like being oppressed, they need to look a little closer in the mirror and ask themselves what they are doing to millions of ex-members.  (I haven’t heard from my Jehovah Witness family in 25 years.)
Brenda Lee, Author
Out of the Cocoon:  A Young Woman’ Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult
[url=http://www.outofthecocoon.net]http://www.outofthecocoon.net[/url]

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On January 13, 2006, John Kennedy Saynor wrote:

As and Anglican Priest, I have to say that if you look at the problems in the world today such as the wars, terrorism and the injustices, most of them are perpetrated by religion.  So I have to say I support Castro’ government’ decision to close down these house churches.

House churches are springing up all ove the world and God only knows (maybe) what goes on in them under the guise of religion.  It is difficult enough for any government to monitor what goes on in churches, much less these places.  Who knows what is being taught to these people that impacts their daily life as well as their political beliefs.

I visit Cuba regularly and am leaving this Sunday, January 15 for a month.  A block away from the house I rent is the local catholic church.  It has a very active programme that includes an AA chapter!  It serves an important role in that community.

A friend of mine is the Episcopal Bishop of Cuba.  The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is located in the Vedado section of Havana.  It is an open structure that is open to anyone who enter and worship. It has many programs of outreach including a ministy to people living with AIDS.

I have seen no evidence of oppression of churches or of those who attend, BUT, as I said, I do support the closing of these suspect house churches.

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On January 14, 2006, wg wrote:

As to Elain:
Jw’ are not anti-government or anti-social. This only reflects a narrow-minded bigot. They support government in many ways (pay taxes, do community work,are law-abiding,etc)
They are anti-war, which is very different. Anti-social, well who is it that comes to your door and offers free home Bible discussions? And as far as children go, they care for the whole child including their health. To say they would rather let their child die is absurd and bigotted. They do all the Bible allows to save their lives. Blood transfustions are a minute part of child care.

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On January 14, 2006, Danny Haszard wrote:

To wg:—Personal attack doesn’t change the fact,Jehovah’ Witnesses entire belief system rest on the destruction of every worldly government.The Watchtower corporation contributes nothing to social welfare because “worldly society is all going to be destroyed at armageddon”.
They are an abusive apocalyptic destructive cult from the get-go.-Danny Haszard

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On February 17, 2006, Bill Jarrell wrote:

While not a fan of the Jehovah’s Witnesses anyone who equates their internal practices with Castro’s police state probably hates JWs more than Castro.
Religions are private organizations and even though their practices, such as shunning disfellowshipped family members, may be authoritarian and unjust it’s hardly the same thing as a police state.

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On February 17, 2006, Bill Jarrell wrote:

Rev. Saynor’s comments are an exercise in doublespeak. He says that he supports Castro’s decision to close house churches, but then says that there is no religious persecution. Of course there is no persecution for approved religious groups, which is only contingent on their loyalty to the government.  Other groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are banned completely. I suppose Rev. Saynor has no sympathy for these groups should they get caught for darying to meet. It is ironic to hear an Anglican priest justifying government controlled religion because I live in a nation originally founded by people escaping the Anglican state religion. Here’s to heritage.

Saynor’s rationale for Castro’s action is that small informal groups meeting in homes are a breeding ground for terror cells. So much for freedom of assembly and the pressumption of innocence! This was same rationale Americans used in World War Two to justify the shameful internment of Japanese Americans.