Examiner.com: Persecuted Cuban Church Leader Visits Austin
On May 22nd- 2008 Cuban State Security officials, local police, and several other government authorities surrounded Pastor Omar Gudes’ house, knocked on the door and then entered to arrest him. He was paraded out in handcuffs with much fanfare and surrounded by enough police, security and armed guards that one would have thought that an armed terrorist or serial killer was who was being arrested. Every piece of furniture and personal property in the house was methodically inventoried and the two family computers ( rare in Cuba! ) were confiscated. His wife and kids were pushed aside and kept separated. They were informed the house itself was going to be confiscated at any time.
The charges against Omar were criminal charges, accusing him of Human Trafficking, the name for those who help Cubans escape the island. Under the Communist regime HT is a very serious crime. He was taken to prison, where he awaited trial for over a year before his case came to court. In the meantime, in March of 2009 the charges of Human Trafficking were dropped by a regional court in Camaguey, his city of residence, BUT he was still not released. While still imprisoned, NEW charges were brought against him. “Falsification of Documents”, “Illicit Economic Activities” along with “Counter-Revolutionary Conduct and Attitudes” were now the newest trumped up criminal charges. Finally in court, false documents and paid false testimonies provided the Communist Court the “proof” they needed and Pastor Omar Gude was sentenced to 6 years in prison, allowing the inclusion of the almost 16 months already served.
What was this well known and well loved Christian Pastors real crime????? Pastor Omar is a leader of the Apostolic Reformation Movement, a relational network of churches independent of any registered religious institution or denomination. They determine that Christian local churches should and do have the right to be independent, non denominational, self governing, autonomous churches. THIS is illegal under Cuban religious law. While religion is legal in Cuba, churches must be formally affiliated members of a recognized denomination. That means no new denominations have been allowed in or allowed to form since 1959. It also means a minister, or pastor cannot be legal if he is not also a member of a recognized denomination. Even then, in spite of being legal, Christian denominations and other recognized religious institutions are VERY restricted, monitored, infiltrated and constantly oppressed by the Communist government. Religious activity and institutions are regulated by the Religious Affairs Office, a wing of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. The real crime committed by Pastor Omar Gude was his leadership role in the Apostolic Reformation Movement. This network has grown rapidly in recent years and has been disproportionately targeted by the government. A number of its national and local leaders have been imprisoned and churches have been threatened with closure. At least one church has been destroyed by government order. A Christian movement of local churches with the word “Independent” anywhere in its mission statement must be a very serious threat indeed! ( sarcasm mine!); Interestingly, none of the leaders, including Omar, have ever made any public anti-government, anti-Communist remarks. The movement is markedly spiritual in nature and is not at all concerned with political or even human rights issues in the country but simply hold to a Biblical perspective that local Christian churches should be independent and non denominational.
Cuba is on the “country of concern” list or the “watch list” of every democratic country in the world due to its 50 plus year record of horrible civil and human rights violations. Omar is now back at home, where threats of confiscation of property continue AND where he is forbidden to travel outside his city or to preach or minister at all, again revealing the real nature of the Communist Party’s concern regarding this man. He was finally granted “conditional liberty” after 2 1/2 in prison where he lost 60 pounds in the first 56 days. Later, he would contract shingles. His wife Kenia, who maintained their home and provided for their 2 young teens the entire 2 1/2 years, took food to Omar several times a week as the prison food often had worms in it……Read More
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