After more than 5 years of targeted persecution, including 2 1/2 years of imprisonment, Omar Gude Perez, wife Kenia and their two teenage children arrived in Austin, Texas on February 1st. Pastor Omar is one of the main leaders of an outlawed Christian church movement in Cuba, called the Apostolic Reformation Movement. The movement emphasizes that local churches have the right to be non-denominational and self governing,which is forbidden by the Communist Government. Historically and currently, every Christian minister, ministry or congregation are required by law to be a formal member of a recognized denomination. As early as 2003, a number of Pastors began to officially withdraw their churches from denominational affiliation, making them illegal and subject to fines, jail or even imprisonment. Pastor Omar was among the first pastors to do that, seeking to establish independent churches.
As the movement grew and gained momentum in the nation, it drew increasingly severe measures of retribution from the Castro regime. Omar Gude Perez eventually became the first and primary target as the Government crackdown began. The Cuban regime denied such a crackdown but in a meeting with denominational leaders, remarks about the crackdown was secretly caught on video and smuggled out. In 2008 Pastor Omar was suddenly arrested at his home. A large number of local police, armed State Security officials, Ministry of Justice and other personnel converged on the house, came inside, arrested Omar, confiscated his desktop computer, inventoried every item and piece of furniture in the house and took Omar to jail with what witness's called "much fanfare and show". He was NOT charged with violating religious laws, rather he was first charged with human trafficking ( smuggling people out of Cuba for profit ) which can carry a life sentence. It was a charge completely without reason or proof. AFTER he was jailed for several months awaiting trial,the charges were changed. There is no due process in Cuba, at least in practice. The trial was a hodgepodge of false charges, complicated proceedings and predictable outcome finding Pastor Perez guilty of criminal charges relating to violations of Anti-Socialist economic activity. , also completely without proof or truth.
After 2 1/2 years in a Communist maximum security prison, where the food at times contained spoilage and worms, Omar was released. He testifies to this day that one of the inmates confessed to him that the State Security had offered to "make life comfortable for my family" if he would murder Omar Gude Perez in prison. The testimony includes the conversion of that inmate to faith in Christ. Upon release, Perez was informed by what amounted to his parole officer that IF he was going to not go back to prison to finish out a 6 year term he was to do no Christian ministry, no preaching or public speaking and that he was not allowed to travel outside his home town. Meanwhile, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a well known activist voice for persecuted Christians and other Christian supporters of Omar and his family had been waging a world wide publicity campaign to bring pressure upon the Communist government. There was also the mobilization of prayer and letters of support to the family.
Along the way, the U.S. government was continually informed of the case and of the limitations upon Pastor Perez upon release, including the threat of being imprisoned again. Eventually the U.S. government offered the family full asylum in the United States as political refugees and after an 18 month political battle, with the Communist Party and State Security by the family, American Christian ministries and Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the regime finally let the family leave. Meanwhile, Omar Daniel, their 17 yr old son had lost 50 pounds and their 14 year old daughter Kaila had begun to suffer the loss of her hair due to emotional stress. Both of the teens basically were shunned out of school once it was known by school staff that asylum had been offered to the family.
NOW, this fiery Christian family is starting a new life and a new ministry in Austin, Texas. They have been known, loved and supported for many years by one of the Christian ministries based in Austin and the family chose Austin to rebuild their lives. They intend on being a voice against Socialism in every form in America and to continue to help lead the Apostolic Reformation Movement in Cuba from here. There is now encouraging rumblings out of the Cuban government that the laws pertaining to religious movements like the ARM will be reexamined. What is certain is that this family will never be allowed back into their beloved homeland as long as the Communist dictatorship remains. If you would like to have them speak to your group you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org