- WEA General Assembly 2019
As the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) gathered its global constituency of over 130 regional and national Alliances and more than one hundred evangelical ministries and organizations for its General Assembly (GA) in Jakarta, Indonesia, both the Cuban and Algerian governments increased pressure on evangelical churches and leaders directly or indirectly preventing their delegations from leaving their respective countries. The WEA and all its members who gathered in Indonesia stand in solidarity with these leaders and call on the Cuban and Algerian governments to cease their crack-down on evangelical believers and grant them full recognition and protection.
“It was to our great disappointment when we learned from our national Alliance leaders in Cuba and Algeria that they will not be able to be with us for this important and long-anticipated gathering. They are part of our global family of more than 600 million evangelicals and both Alliances are full members of the WEA whom we recognize as representative bodies for evangelicals in their countries,” said Bp Efraim Tendero, Secretary General of the WEA. “For the governments to place short-noticed travel restrictions or forcefully closing churches and interrogating our leaders is not only unacceptable, it is outrageous.”
Cuban government refusing to grant recognition to Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Cuba
A Cuban leader who was outside the country at the time the unexpected travel restrictions were imposed by the government could fortunately join the WEA GA and share in detail about the situation in Cuba. He serves as part of the leadership of the recently formed Alianza de Iglesias Evangélicas de Cuba (Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Cuba, AIEC) that brings together more than one million evangelical believers – constituting some 10% of the population – from denominations, such as Methodist, Pentecostal and others in the communist-governed country. Ever since the formation of the Alliance in Cuba last year, the government has refused to recognize it as a representative body and instead increased its pressure on the leadership with intimidation, interrogation and imprisonment.
The Cuban leader shared how churches in their nation belong to three different groups: the recognized and protected churches that existed before the communist revolution; secondly the repressed churches that are discriminated against by way of regular interrogation of pastors and church leaders, including occasional imprisonment; and finally the persecuted churches that are considered illegal and are actively cracked down upon by the government. The majority of evangelical churches belong to the second group who – despite some of their histories going back hundreds of years and their belonging to the worldwide family of WEA since its formation in 1846 – are considered new religious groups and are refused recognition. It is also illegal to found new churches but nevertheless, the Church has seen significant growth in recent time.
“After years of attempting to bring evangelicals together amid strong interference from the government that sought to prevent denominational leaders from meeting with each other, more than twenty leaders eventually got together to form the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Cuba,” the Cuban leader shared. “But repeated requests to get government recognition in following months fell on deaf ears because the government is afraid of our influence as a body that represents such a large constituency.”
“We call on the Cuban government to grant full recognition to the Alliance of Evangelical Churches in Cuba, cease to harass and discriminate against its leaders and churches and acknowledge the positive influence that evangelicals have on Cuban society in their neighborhoods,” Bp Tendero stated. “And I call on Christians worldwide to stand in prayer and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cuba. They have been suffering for their faith but have held on and selflessly served God and their neighbors in the face of discrimination and persecution. May their prayers for relief and recognition be heard.”
Continuing forced church closures and interrogation of evangelical leaders in Algeria
While the government of Algeria has not directly prevented the Algerian delegation to the WEA GA from leaving the country, their continuing pressure on evangelicals especially by forcefully closing down churches effectively made their participation untenable. Just last month, they closed down the churches of the President and of the General Secretary of the Église Protestante d’Algérie (Protestant Churches of Algeria, EPA), WEA’s national member body in what has been part of an open and direct targeting by the authorities. These two churches were also the largest in the country.
In recent time, the government has used an ordinance regulating non-Muslim faith groups to require minority-faith places of worship to apply for a special license that would allow them to operate. Non-licensed places of worship are subject to forced closure by government at any moment, and authorities have used this ordinance to close down twelve evangelical churches over the course of the past months. What is not acknowledge, however, is that all these places of worship had applied for such a license but since the ordinance’s introduction in 2006, not a single license was issued by the government. The authorities have also refused to fully recognize the EPA as representative body of evangelicals in Algeria.
“We reiterate our call to the Algerian government to grant religious freedom to people of all faiths, suspend the flawed ordinance on non-Muslim places of worship and allow the closed churches to reopen,” said Bp Tendero. “We stand with our Algerian brothers and sisters in Christ and consider them an integral part of our global family of evangelicals who we missed in Indonesia. We pray that they will be given the right to freely exercise their faith and contribute positively to society without fear.”
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