World News

Cuban authorities destroy church, arrest pastor who filmed demolition

Authorities in the city of Santiago de Cuba demolished a church that has long been a target of the communist regime and arrested a pastor who streamed the demolition live on social media, a human rights group has reported.

The Cuban State Security brought heavy machinery and bulldozers to the Assemblies of God Church in the Abel Santamaria neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba last Friday and destroyed the church.

The church has been under threat since 2015 even though the denomination is one of the largest religious groups in Cuba and is legally recognized by the government.

Pastor Alain Toledano who lives in the same neighborhood and pastors another church recorded the government attack on the church and broadcast it on Facebook Live through his mobile phone.

However, he dropped the phone on the ground as he was approached by men wearing plainclothes. As the video feed was cut, the sound of bulldozers could be heard as members of the church sang in the background.

Cuban police then took Toledano, a leader of the unregistered denomination the Apostolic Movement, to the Motorizada Police Station. Sources said, he is being kept incommunicado.

Cuban authorities have claimed that the demolition was for the construction of train tracks on the site, but sources said the church was the only building in the neighborhood that was destroyed.

“Officials at the Cuban Physical Planning and Housing Departments first attempted to demolish the church in 2015 but backed off after members of the church and other denominations, led by Rev. Fausto Polemo, held a peaceful sit-in in the building,” a report noted. “They also threatened to confiscate the homes of those living on the property in 2015.”

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