HAVANA, CUBA (Worthy News)-- A Pentecostal pastor in Cuba was recovering of brain damage Tuesday, March 13, after he was assaulted while trying to challenge the confiscation of a church truck by Communist authorities, Christians said.
Pastor Reutilio Columbie of the Shalom Christian Centre congregation in the eastern city of Moa was reportedly attacked February 6 while traveling to the capital of Holguin Province to file a complaint against the confiscation of the vehicle.
He was found unconscious after leaving his home in a nearby street several hours hours later and taken to hospital, Christians said.
The pastor said in published remarks that he does not remember "anything about the attack," but the only thing missing from his possession were the papers related to the vehicle.
He suffered severe inflammation of the brain as a result of the attack.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a rights group investigating the case, told BosNewsLife that "It is believed that the assault was the result of the pastor’s decision to challenge the arbitrary confiscation of a church vehicle by the authorities."
He had bought the truck five years ago and modified it to transport members of his Mao-based Pentecostal church, Christians said.
However in December 2011 it was confiscated by authorities "without warning or explanation and apparently returned to the original owner," who has family ties to an official of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, CSW added.
The Central Committee is the same entity which holds authority over all religious matters, including registration of church property and vehicles, through the Office of Religious Affairs.
"When the pastor protested the confiscation of the church vehicle and began the process of lodging a formal complaint to prove ownership, the family began to receive anonymous phone calls telling them to stop or he would pay the consequences," CSW explained.
The group said it has demanded an investigation into the eventual February 6 assault. Law enforcement officials have reportedly said however that too much time has elapsed to make such an investigation possible.
Pastor Reutilio, 41, "is now recuperating at home with his wife Maida Perez and their three children, but still struggles with speech and memory," CSW added. His daughter reportedly said that he is also "frequently nauseous and dizzy".
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said that Cuba lacks legislation to protect religious freedom and guarantee church property. "This, combined with the fact that all religious matters are dealt with by the Office for Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP), rather than regular judicial channels, leaves religious groups and leaders vulnerable to abuse and with no means to appeal decisions," he told BosNewsLife.
There has been pressure on Cuba's Communist government to establish a legal framework, independent of the CCP, to regulate religious affairs.