The Pentecostal Church Condemns the Occupation of One of Its Church Buildings
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 13 — Leaders of the Pentecostal Church of Cuba are afraid for the lives of people occupying one of its chapels.
According to its Executive Committee, some believers have made statements such as: “We are in a pact of life or death with the pastor,” “We are willing to die for Jesus” and “We are ready for our glorification.”
Pentecostal Church Condemns the Action
In an official statement signed by the members of its highest leadership body (formed by Reverend Eliseo Villar, Enrique Gonzalez and Herminio Pupo), the Pentecostal Church showed itself willing to “cooperate in order to arrive at a favorable solution that as its first priority protects the physical integrity of those inside.”
According to Baptist Reverend Raul Suarez, the incidents that occurred at the Pentecostal facility have to do with parallel relationships that some Cuban pastors maintain with fundamentalist churches based in the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Central America.
According to the Cuban government’s official statement, published in all the media, the police have surrounded the facility with the aim of “protecting citizen safety so as to avoid any incident,” though they recognize that the people inside are there of their own free will.
Deception and manipulation
The leadership of the Pentecostal Church (Assemblies of God) affirms that Pastor Braulio Herrera was expelled from the congregation in April 2010 for “violating fundamental biblical principles” and “manipulating believers, breaking up marriages and dividing parents from their children.”
In the Pentecostal Church statement, the religious leaders mention that the Cuban authorities had been largely apprised of the situation and that the church had “filed lawsuits, both civil and criminal” but that they are still awaiting “a decision on these.”
They also assert that the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party had been alerted to the dangers of “deception and manipulation” of the believers by Pastor Herrera.
However, the statement doesn’t make it clear whether they asked the police to vacate the building. Church officials only stated that they would cooperate in a solution that “protects the physical integrity” of the occupants and that also permanently expels the repudiated pastor from the chapel.
The doctrinal background
Baptist Reverend Raul Suarez, the head of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, explained that since 1984 there has been an enormous growth of evangelical churches. “Today we have 200,000 people in our communities; and for each member, three or four others attend our churches from time to time.”
At the beginning, external relations remained exclusively with the “long-standing” evangelical churches. However parallel ties were later established with representatives of “fundamentalist” churches, despite these retaining some important doctrinal differences, said Suarez.
The Reverend further explained that “fundamentalism was born as a reaction to changes that were being made to science-faith and church-society relationships within churches.” He said that this involves sectors inclined to accept miracles, end-of-the-world theories, divine sanctity, the absolute sanctity of believers and “even collective suicide.”
Finally, Raul Suarez proposed that a law be created that regulates religious activities as exist in other countries. “I’m assembling the laws in place in Argentina, Uruguay or Chile because what’s certain is that in Cuba there’s only the Law of Associations, which is no longer sufficient.”
There is no access by the press to the facility, nonetheless Leonel Suñol (a relative of a 23-year-old woman inside the church) told this reporter that her niece, Yadira, had “left everything” because she believes that “the end of the world is approaching and that the sole way to reach sanctity is through prayer.”
The Cuban government had attempted to stay on the sidelines of the conflict but it finally acted when churches and relatives “turned to the authorities worried particularly for the children, who are not attending school, and for pregnant women who are not receiving the prescribed medical care they need.”
A police operation has kept the area around the temple cordoned off since this past weekend, though the official communiqué proposes pursuing the path of negotiations. “As a result of this approach, talks have been held with family members, religious leaders and some members of the congregation.”
Dissident bloggers are using the case to question the degree of religious freedom that exists in the country, though everything indicates that the conflict has no political overtones. Still, at the end of the interview Pastor Raul Suarez reminded us that “if it involves Cuba, any event can become politicized.”