By Cara Bentley
A Cuban pastor has been threatened because his church was hosting a women’s conference.
Alain Toledano Valiente is a leader in the Apostolic Movement, an unregistered Protestant denomination in Cuba.
The pastor was summoned to a police station on Wednesday, where he was told by the station commander that if his church went ahead with a planned women’s event starting on Thursday, called Deborah 2019, he would be charged with the crime of disobedience and would risk imprisonment.
Toledano Valiente received the summons on his 25th wedding anniversary and was told to present himself to the police at 10am the next day.
He wrote on Facebook: “Today we are celebrating 25 years of marriage, my wife and I, and this is the gift of the Cuban government, a policeman at my door and a summons for tomorrow…In my 47 years in Cuba I have learned something, they never come at all good, there are always traps, threats, blackmail, etc. Let everyone know about this new threat to my freedom. I ask above all for your prayers, God cover our lives, and my family who was last threatened, shalom”
The pastor went to La Motorizada Unit 3 Police Station on Thursday and was interrogated for almost three hours by the unit commander.
Toledano Valiente said the church would go ahead with the two-day Deborah conference for Christian women and posted pictures of the event on social media.
In July, Toledano Valiente was stopped by government agents and blocked from boarding a flight to the US to attend the Ministerial on International Religious Freedom. He is still officially banned from leaving Cuba and his right to move freely within the country is also restricted.
“It looks like the regime is planning to invent criminal charges to bring against me in order to imprison me, just as they have done in the past with other pastors,” Toledano Valiente told Christian freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
“I have had to deal with the fury and the hatred of the communist regime in many different ways and I think now I have to deal with dirty tricks on their part. I continue to be prohibited from travelling and I don’t think they are interested in freeing me. This is the price I have to pay in this country. I have had to cancel many national and international events because of this restriction. They want to suffocate me, trying to pin me down into a tight space to eliminate both my voice and myself, a pressure that wants to destroy both the church and me.”
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl said: “Concerns that weakened protections for freedom of religion or belief in the new constitution indicated a harder line from the new government appear to be validated. There is no justification for stripping religious leaders, who have committed no crime, of their right to travel or to arbitrarily ban churches from holding special religious events.
“We call on the Cuban government to immediately cease its harassment Alain Toledano Valiente and other church leaders and to allow these peaceful religious events and initiatives to take place without interference from the state.”
Pastor Alain attended the conference which finished on Saturday. It’s also been reported that three Christian women from Mexico were barred from attending.