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Cuba: Reining in the Church

October 27, 2005

**** PLAN TO PARTICIPATE IN IDOP - 13 / 20 NOVEMBER 2005 ****
* The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church *
* For resources, visit http://www.IDOP.org *
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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 349 - Wed 19 Oct 2005

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CUBA: REINING IN THE CHURCH Plus: Update on India
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Cuba\'s Church was decimated when Fidel Castro\'s 1959 Communist
Revolution forced multitudes of believers to flee to the USA for
religious liberty. While religion was not banned, it was subject to
heavy restrictions and repression. For decades, Cuban Christians
suffered severe religious discrimination and persecution, which
included imprisonment and arbitrary church closures. After the fall
of Communism in Europe and the break-up of the Soviet Union -
Cuba\'s main backer - the situation in Cuba relaxed and the 1990s
were marked by spectacular Church growth. But repressive policy
made it virtually impossible for churches to get permission to
extend their buildings or plant new churches, so house-churches
sprang up all over the island. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
reports (Sep 2005), \'Protestant pastors estimate that between
10,000 and 15,000 house churches currently operate across the
country. Most are satellite congregations of churches that existed
prior to the 1959 Revolution and belong to well-established
denominations with a historic presence in Cuba. Most of these house
churches have somewhere between 30 and 200 members who regularly
attend services.\'

For a time the government tolerated the house-churches. But, as one
Cuba-watcher notes, \'There has been a very general trend in Cuba in
the last three or four years to slowly bring the country back to a
more orthodox Communist model.\' Castro has been reversing the
reforms of the 1990s, and the authorities have been re-asserting
their control. They are cracking down on dissent, escalating their
repression of human rights and pro-democracy activists, many of
whom are Christians, and demonstrating an increased hostility
towards the Church.

New legislation, Directive 43 and Resolution 46, came into effect
on 22 September. It requires all currently operating house-churches
to register with the authorities. Protestant leaders told CSW that
the registration process has become even more complicated and
restrictive, meaning most fellowships will not achieve
registration. The legislation requires detailed information to be
submitted to the authorities about the house-church, the pastor and
everybody living in the house. The new rules prohibit worship in a
home not registered for religious activity, and the authorities are
to supervise all registered, legal worship. House-churches that do
achieve registration may not display any identifying sign or symbol
and they must abide by all government stipulations, including a
limit on numbers attending worship. In a move to isolate the Cuban
Church by cutting off funds, communication and fellowship,
foreigners are not permitted to have any involvement in house-
churches without government permission. Churches violating that
rule face steep fines and possible closure.

Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) reports that on Sunday 9 October, police
raided a home in the city of Colon and confiscated printed gospels
of John and a small printing press. The gospels were deemed
\'subversive and dangerous\'. According to VOM, police then took
Pastor Eliseo Rodriguez Matos to the local police station for
interrogation. VOM also reports that house-churches are
experiencing increased police harassment and threats. One Cuban
pastor recently told Compass Direct, \'If bad times come, we will
just have to be on our knees more, shed a few more tears perhaps,
but we will never turn back.\'

PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* courage, strength and solidarity within and amongst Cuba\'s
house-churches as believers face the prospect of escalating
repression, isolation and persecution.

* God to use his Church in Cuba as a channel through which his
majestic glory and compassionate grace flow effectually,
bringing hope, healing, peace and joy to Cubans everywhere.

\'...that you may know... the immeasurable greatness of his power
toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead...\'
Ephesians 1:15-23 (ESV) excerpts

* Cuba\'s President Fidel Castro to repent of his sin, yield to the
Spirit, and submit to God, coming in line with his will: \'Cuba
para Cristo!\' - \'Cuba for Christ!\' (See Psalm 2)

* God to give wisdom and insight to the US government so it may
enact policy that will work for the ultimate blessing of Cuba.

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE:
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CUBA REINING IN THE CHURCH

The fall of Communism in Europe led to an easing of persecution in
Cuba, and during the 1990s Cuba\'s long-repressed Church saw
spectacular growth. But restrictive policies made it virtually
impossible for churches to get permits to extend their premises or
plant new churches, so house-churches sprang up all over the
island. However, over recent years the authorities have made a
concerted effort to return to the orthodox Communist model. This
has meant increased repression and persecution of human rights and
pro-democracy activists, many of whom are Christians, and a growing
hostility towards the house-churches. New legislation enacted on 22
September will repress, restrict and isolate the churches. Many
Christians believe a return to active persecution is imminent. On
Sunday 9 October, police confiscated a printing press and gospels
deemed to be \'subversive and dangerous\'. Please pray for Cuba.

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UPDATE ON INDIA:

The Supreme Court has postponed its ruling on the rights of
Christian Dalits. The next hearing is set for Tuesday 25 October.
While we pray for equal rights for Dalit Christians, we must also
pray for and seek the advancement of the kingdom of God in India,
because the problem of caste is ultimately not a political problem,
but a spiritual one.

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.