A pastor in Cuba was threatened with imprisonment by police for hosting a women's conference.
Alain Toledano Valiente was called to the police station Wednesday to speak with the station commander. At this time, he was informed that he would be facing charges of disobedience and risk his own freedom if his church went ahead with hosting a women's event.
He received the summons on his 25th wedding anniversary.
Valiente took to social media to share the incident, posting to 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 is a leader in an unregistered Protestant denomination in Cuba called the Apostolic Movement. Police told him to return to the station the following day at 10:00 a.m.
Upon reaching the La Motorizada Unit 3 Police Station on Thursday, Valiente was taken in for questioning. For the next three hours, the pastor was interrogated by the unit commander.
The event in question, called Deborah 2019, was to be a two-day conference for Christian women. Valiente told police that the conference would continue, and even posted photos from the event online.
At this time, Valiente remains officially banned from leaving Cuba, reports Premier. His freedom to travel within the country has been limited, and the pastor was stopped by government agents and blocked from boarding a flight to the US, where he was scheduled to attend the Ministerial on International Religious Freedom.
Valiente told Christian Solidarity Worldwide, "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."
“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," he continued. "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."
According to CSW Head of Advocacy Anna-Lee Stangl, "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."
She has also called on the government of Cuba to end its limitations on Valiente and other church leaders, as well as allow the happening of peaceful religious events without interference.
The conference did take place and the pastor was able to attend. Three Christian women from Mexico, however, were prevented from attending.