Cuban Pentecostals Denounce Police Harassment Against Two Pastors From Camagüey

“Their movement is restricted and they must be available and locatable,” says the leader of the Assemblies of God in Cuba

Pentecostal Pastor Dizzis Ramos, leader of the Assemblies of God in Camagüey /Evangelical Revival Hialeah

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 June 2024 — Pentecostal pastor Dizzis Ramos, leader of the Assemblies of God in Camagüey, has been waiting several days for a summons from the Police and a possible formal accusation from the Prosecutor’s Office for having been involved in the purchase of allegedly illegal cement in a State entity. The incident has been interpreted by the top authorities of his denomination as the prelude to “a very complex situation between the Church and the State.”

This is what Moisés de Prada, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God on the Island, believes; he clarifies to 14ymedio that neither Ramos nor Jorleidis Reynaldo – the pastor Ramos sent to buy the cement – are detained or under house arrest. The cement was confiscated and they were required not to leave the province. “They have restricted movement and must be available and locatable,” he says.

“He (Reynaldo) went to buy the cement because they were told that they were selling it with no rationing,” says De Prada, who insists on the disconcerting nature of the accusation: “It was a state-run stand,” he stresses. “He made his purchase and, when he left, he was arrested.”

He showed the bill to the Police so that they could verify “that there was no problem.” Agents disagreed and replied that the invoice was false.” We bought cement in one of your entities,” Reynaldo defended himself, adding that, “if the Police had doubts about the legitimacy of the sale, it was the entity from which we bought the cement that they should ask for explanations.”

He showed the bill to the Police so that they could verify “that there was no problem.” Agents disagreed and replied that the invoice was false.

De Prada cannot specify how much cement it was. Still, he estimates there were “quite a few bags, perhaps 40 or 50, which Pastor Ramos was going to allocate to constructions in the church of Camalote,” an area located in the Camagüey municipality of Nuevitas. “We lost the cement,” Reynaldo told Ramos as he returned empty-handed. Shortly after, they were told they would be summoned for a trial in the coming months.

As one of the leaders of the Assemblies of God, De Prada took action on the matter and called, from Havana, the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs of the Communist Party. “That was over a week ago. They told me they were unaware of the situation and that they would find out. ” When he called again, two days ago, they still didn’t know.

De Prada then took it upon himself to warn them that they would not agree with the potential measures that could be taken against Ramos and Reynaldo. “It could bring an altercation between the Church and the State,” he considers. “We are asking the State to assess the situation and that nothing happens.”

He also contacted the provincial office of the Communist Party in Camagüey and offered to meet with them. A meeting “out of respect and understanding that we will not agree on any action taken against our pastor,” he demands. “They say that the measure was not taken for the mere fact that a pastor was involved,” he says.

He also contacted the provincial office of the Communist Party in Camagüey and offered to meet with them. 

In his calls with Party officials, De Prada was told that perhaps the entity did not have the right to sell that cement. De Prada repeated the argument that Reynaldo had given to the Police: Cubans take for granted that what the State sells is legal. Later this week, De Prada will travel to Camagüey.

With more than 53 million members worldwide, the Assemblies of God, one of the most popular Christian denominations on the Island, has always been a target of State Security because of its close ties with the Pentecostal communities of the United States. With a great capacity for mobilization – they are famous for their “mega-churches,” capable of gathering thousands of faithful followers – they are not affiliated with the World Council of Churches nor the Council of Churches of Cuba.

In June 2020, the board of directors of the Assemblies of God on the Island issued a statement making clear its position on the “debates, articles and criteria” that questioned its “non-negotiable principles on the nature of the family, its function and purpose.” The text stressed that “the Church is independent of the State” and that it did not have to accept equal marriage endorsed in the Family Code, then pending approval.

Given the attacks by people linked to the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex in Spanish), led by Mariela Castro, they assured that the Church “is not contentious nor does it allow itself to be provoked by the hate speech by people and sectors that do not accept our doctrine.”

The government’s tensions with ministers of different denominations have again made headlines in recent weeks. Last May, as a gesture of protest against the blackouts, the Camagüey priest Alberto Reyes rang the bells of his parish in Esmeralda. The priest, one of the most critical voices of the Catholic clergy, was forbidden by his own bishop to repeat the bell ringing, a call to order in which more than a few suspected the State Security’s pressure.

Translated by LAR

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