Maranatha First Baptist Church, Holguin, cuba
The Maranatha First Baptist Church in Holguin, north-east Cuba, has been informed that the government is going to confiscate the church building. This means that they will have to pay rent to the state, and the government could dictate what does or doesn’t happen in their building.
With Cuba officially a Communist state, and the government doing everything it can to control the growth and impact of religious groups , it’s not difficult to work out that this would be a disaster for Pastor Amado and his congregation.
Other churches have also been threatened with confiscation – it’s part of a wider government crackdown on Protestant churches in certain parts of Cuba.
An incredible 3,000 of you added your names to the petition, and on 12 June we took it to the Cuban embassy in London to deliver it in person. Click below to see a quick video of our visit to the embassy:
And the church finally met government officials at 10am on 16 June, taking with them a total of 5,102 signatures or statements of support from Cuba and all over the world. The UK embassy in Havana has also expressed their ‘unconditional support’ of the church.
The government officials were relatively friendly, but told them they need to be patient and that the matter will be decided by the National Council of Ministers. It’s very unusual for a local property case like this to be decided by the highest levels of government – it’s the equivalent of the Cabinet Office in the UK.
We’ll keep you updated as soon as we hear anything further!
Our Latin America Advocacy Officer testified in the US Congress yesterday on the arbitrary (ie, unlawful) confiscation of church buildings, and highlighted this case. Please pray that our petition and her testimony would stop the Cuban government officials from trying to take over the church building, and that the church would be able to worship without further restrictions.
Send a card
The church has told us that they really appreciate the cards and letters they’ve already received from CSW supporters, and they believe it has helped to ease government pressure on them.
Just write a few words of support in a card, and send it to:
Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha
The 1,000-strong Maranatha First Baptist Church is based in the city of Holguin, in the north-east of Cuba. It’s one of the largest in the city with hundreds of members attending each week, and sits on a property which has belonged to Eastern Baptist Convention since 1947. The building was built in 1992 with legal permits allowing for its construction.
The church has a very active local ministry working with vulnerable members of the community such as the elderly and the disabled. The church has also planted many new congregations through their outreach work in the region, and runs a thriving youth ministry. They’ve begun 40 days of prayer and fasting as they face the government’s threat of confiscation.
The government has threatened to confiscate the church many times over the years. Growing churches often face authority harassment and intimidation, since the government perceives them as a threat to their total control over every area of life, including religion. We suspect that Maranatha First Baptist Church's harassment is due to a combination of its growth, positive impact on local communities, and relative remoteness in terms of tourism.
- May 2015: Communist Party officials inform the church once more that their buildings will be confiscated and they will have to pay rent to the state. This would mean that the government could dictate what does or doesn’t happen in their building.
- May 2011: CSW launches a campaign and hundreds of CSW supporters send letters of solidarity to the church. The government does not carry out its threats.
- April 2011: Ministry of Housing officials visit the church and inform them in a highly intimidating manner that their buildings will be confiscated on a permanent basis by state authorities.
- 1989-2015: The church grows rapidly, leading to poor ventilation and overcrowded conditions in the old building. The church continues to submit requests to the Communist Party Office of Religious Affairs to make repairs and changes to the church building to better accommodate all those who attend. It receives no answer to any of these requests.
- 1989: The church submits its first requests to the Communist Party Office of Religious Affairs for permission to update and make repairs to the church building. There is no response.
- 1959: The Cuban Revolution led by Fidel and Raul Castro is successful, strict controls are placed on religious groups who were legally registered before the revolution.
- May 1954: The church and its property are officially registered by the government. It is affiliated with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba.
- 1947: The property, in the historic city centre of Holguin, is acquired by the American Baptist Home Society.
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