Note to readers: The video is not subtitled, but allows viewers to see the church before and after the demolition. The introduction notes that the video was filmed mostly clandestinely and apologizes for the poor quality.
14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2016 — With his cell phone camera and through the window shutters, a man captures the police operation around an evangelical church in the city of Camagüey. The image is part of a recent video with details and testimonies about the demolition of the roof of Pastor Bernardo Quesada’s church on 8 January. [An interview with Pastor Quesada about these events is here.]
The recordings were made by several members of the Fire and Dynamics congregation to record surveillance around the temple, the machinery used to bring down the roof and the dismay among the faithful caused by the demolition of the church. Complaints and cries of faith are heard throughout the audiovisual material, along with brief interviews with parishioners.
The center of worship is located in the Versalles neighborhood in the city of Camaguey and is part of a Christian movement that split the Cuban Council of Churches in 2003.
In the early morning hours of 8 January, police forces raided the home of the pastor, who was violently arrested and taken, along with his wife, to the police station on Avellaneda Street, near the train station.
The nave that had served as a temple was totally destroyed. The conflict between Quesada’s church and the authorities dates back to 2012, when the pastor’s wife bought a property to serve as their home, and began renovations of a roofed open-walled structure for religious activities.
In October of that year, the Department of Physical Planning fined the owner for not having requested permission for the work on the outbuilding, which the authorities considered an independent housing unit. The pastor says that the administration of the agency itself had assured him that permission was not necessary.
On 3 December of last year, the religious leader was summoned to a meeting at the Provincial Department of Housing and was told he would have to demolish the roof of the outbuilding. The demolition would have to be undertaken within seven days of that date.
Quesada made an urgent call to the international community through the digital site Religion in Revolution, in which he claimed that it was a persecution “against the Church where more than 600 people gather.” However the authorities proceeded to demolish the temple at the beginning of this year.