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Belarus: Christian crackdown continues as Pentecostal church is evicted

October 2021 | by Evangelical Times

New Life Church (CREDIT: New Life Church/Forum18)
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Officials in Belarus have continued to crack down on Christians in the country amid growing international concern over human rights violations in the country.

One church, the New Life Pentecostal Church, was evicted from its own building in February this year. The church had bought a disused cowshed 15 years ago, renovated it, and was using it as its building.

The government refused to change its designation from ‘cowshed’ and maintained the church was not allowed to use the building.

It then ordered officials to seize the church and warned that anyone continuing to meet there could incur administrative or criminal prosecution.

However, the church has held open-air services in the car park each week as the congregation vowed to continue its worship.

Speaking to a Norwegian human rights organisation, Pastor Vyaschedlav Goncharenko said, ‘The authorities may initiate criminal charges as they told us at the Council of the Republic meeting.

‘This is possible, given that they have gone as far as throwing us out of the building without compensation, and imposing debts.’

In July, the Administration of Minsk’s Moscow District warned Pastor Goncharenko in a letter that the church’s worship meetings were illegal.

This was followed by a letter on 5 August from the City Executive Committee, reminding him of administrative and criminal punishments (of up to four years’ imprisonment) for organising and participating in illegal meetings.

In June, because of political opposition protests, the regime tightened control over any activities involving large numbers of people.

This affects public religious events, and authorities can now determine the place and change the nature of a proposed ‘mass event’ such as a Sunday church meeting or religious procession.

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