Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a prominent charity advocating for religious freedom, has made an urgent plea for the immediate release of Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero, who was recently detained in Cuba due to his unwavering commitment to preach and uphold religious freedom.
Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero, the founder of an independent Protestant Christian group known as the Alia Movement, was forcibly taken from his home in the early hours of Tuesday by a Department of State Security (DSE) agent in Havana. This action followed a summons issued to him the day before.
Similarly, Pastor Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo, who is affiliated with the Protestant Christian denomination Rehobot, received a summons. Both pastors have been targeted by the DSE for their active involvement in an initiative to arrange roundtable discussions on Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB). The first of these discussions occurred in Havana and El Cristo, Santiago, earlier this month, with a second set of talks scheduled for October 31st, the day after the pastors received their summons.
These discussions on FoRB included members of various religious communities, such as Protestants, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Afro-Cubans.
Cuba operates under a communist regime where political opposition is not tolerated. When the state introduces new laws, churches and religious groups are neither consulted nor given a choice but to adhere to the mandates. Consequently, Christians in Cuba may encounter persecution from the authorities.
According to Open Doors, an anti-persecution charity, church leaders and Christian activists in Cuba frequently face harassment, violence, arrests, and imprisonment by the authorities for speaking out against corruption and advocating for religious freedom.
CSW has voiced “extreme concern” over the detention of Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero and is strongly advocating for his “immediate and unconditional release.”
Anna Lee Stangl, Head of Advocacy at CSW, expressed her concerns, stating, “CSW is equally troubled by the well-being of Pastor Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo. Although the Cuban government claims to respect freedom of religion or belief, a fundamental right protected by international law, its internal intelligence apparatus relentlessly harasses and arbitrarily detains religious leaders solely for their participation in roundtable discussions aimed at fostering cooperation among religious groups and facilitating dialogue on this fundamental right.”
Stangl further called upon the international community to condemn the actions of the Cuban government and to closely monitor the situation of these two religious leaders, along with all those involved in promoting Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).
In Cuba, the struggle for religious freedom is intensified by a government that rigidly controls political opposition and imposes laws without seeking the input of religious communities. As a result, Christians who stand up for their faith and advocate for religious freedom often find themselves subjected to persecution and oppression.
The imprisonment and harassment of religious leaders in Cuba, like Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero and Pastor Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo, for their commitment to fostering dialogue on religious freedom is an alarming violation of international human rights standards.
CSW is urging the Cuban government to respect and uphold freedom of religion or belief as enshrined in international law and to release these detained pastors immediately. The charity is also calling upon the global community to take a stand against these unjust actions and to closely monitor the situation, ensuring that religious freedom is protected for all in Cuba.
The situation in Cuba continues to draw international concern, as religious leaders who promote religious freedom face persecution and detention by the authorities. CSW’s call for the immediate release of Pastor Alejandro Hernández Cepero and Pastor Luis Eugenio Maldonado Calvo is a clear expression of their commitment to defending fundamental human rights. The international community is urged to unite in condemning the actions of the Cuban government and monitoring the situation of these religious leaders and their efforts to advance Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB).