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Cuba Worries Whether Pentecostal Prayer Retreat is a Doomsday Cult

Cuban evangelicals locked inside a Havana church for three weeks have caught the attention of the Cuban government–and now the world media–over whether the 62 church members are conducting a harmless prayer retreat or making end-of-the-world preparations reminiscent of Waco's Branch Davidians.

Church spokesman William Herrera explained the Assemblies of God group has been praying since August 21 for a "new Cuba free of sin," according to the Associated Press. He said the group has been mistaken for a doomsday cult or political dissenters because of the length of the retreat, which will end when God tells them to stop.

However, local media have reported many details that have fed fears among relatives of those inside. Officials have been monitoring the group to ensure that pregnant women and minors inside the church are healthy and not being held against their will.

The head pastor of the church, Braulio Herrera Tito, was dismissed by the National Assembly of Pentecostal Churches last year for straying from church doctrine, but has refused to give up his pastorate despite a court ruling in the assembly's favor.

CT visited this very church in April 2009 while researching the stunning growth of the Cuban church for this cover story and slideshow.

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