Apostolic Church destroyed in Cuba by government agents

On his recent visit to Cuba, Pope Francis gave Castro, who is an atheist, some official papal writings and two books on spirituality.Reuters

A Protestant church in Cuba has been demolished under authorisation from the government.

Officials demolished the Strong Winds Ministry Church in Las Tunas, eastern Cuba earlier this month.

The minister, Rev Mario Jorge Travieso, has been threatened with seven years' imprisonment if he speaks publicly about the destruction.

The church, which is affiliated with the Apostolic Movement, an unregistered Protestant denomination, is the fourth in Cuba and the second in Las Tunas to be demolished by the government since the beginning of the year.

Travieso told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that on 9 April, hundreds of government officials surrounded the property on the outskirts of the city. The minister was detained while the church was destroyed.

Travieso said: "The farm was raided by hundreds of troops from different government entities and they used modern heavy machinery to destroy the foundation which we had built and a brick platform covered with earth. They broke up the floor with an old digger and they confiscated all the pews where more than 70 church members sit, all of the lights and cables and electrical equipment, as well as the tools to carry out work, iron pipes and a private cement mixer."

The value of the items taken was more than 50,000 Cuban pesos, or about £1400, and that is not including the 14 zinc sheets and the pipes donated by members of the congregation wortha furrther 20,000, or about £560.

Travieso said he was treated "like a common delinquent" by security agents who served him with a pre-arrest warrant threatening a seven-year prison sentence if anyone in the congregation makes public complaints about the destruction of their church.

 Travieso said: "All of these violations continue in my country, without any attention, so we share the news of this great injustice with the international community."

He called for international support with regards to his own safety.

Mervyn Thomas of CSW said: "We are extremely disturbed to learn of this latest church demolition by the Cuban authorities, just weeks after President Obama's historic visit to the island.

"The actions of the Cuban government this past weekend indicate that they have no plans to ease up on their crackdown on the Apostolic Movement churches. The threats of a lengthy prison sentence, should members of the Strong Winds Ministry Church speak out about these serious human rights violations, are beyond the pale. Once again, we urge the international community to raise the demolition of these three churches, the mass detentions of pastors and church members, and threats of imprisonment with the Cuban government as a matter of urgency. We continue to call on the EU and the US to make freedom of religion or belief a central component of its dialogues with Cuba and to insist on improvement in this area."