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Belarusian evangelicals support church harassed by the authorities

Police officers entered New Life Church in Minsk to evict the building. The evangelical community had supported pro-democracy protests. “If one member suffers, all suffer”, evangelical denominations say in a joint statement.

AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus MINSK 23 DE FEBRERO DE 2021 13:22 h
Police officers in front of the building of the New Life Church building, in Minsk (Belarus) on 17 February. / Photo: Facebook [link]New Life Church[/link]

Police officers forcibly entered the building of New Life Church (Minsk, Belarus) on 17 February, while some worshippers were gathered inside in a prayer meeting.



Images recorded by members of the church show how over 20 police officers and court officials arrived at the building at around 11am. The around 60 worshippers inside the building initially refused to leave the building.



New Life Church recorded the incident with security cameras and mobile devices, and summarised it in a 7 minute-long video posted later on Youtube:





According to Forum 18 news, the authorities used professional tools to break the door lock and enter the building.



The Christian community has been appealing against a court order of 2009 which does not give the building the status of a place of worship. For years, the authorities refused to re-register the building according to its religious use. An eviction order asking New Life Church to leave the building by the end of 2020 was issued, but the evangelical community refused to leave their building.



Earlier attempts to evict the church in April 2017 and June 2013 were unsuccessful. On 5 January 2021, another attempt failed.



According to local broadcaster BelSat TV, the Minsk authorities say there are plans to build a school on the site of the church.



A church member told Forum 18 that after the eviction, the building was being occupied by the authorities, and guarded day and night to prevent church members entering.



 



Support has pro-democracy stance



The church suspects that the harassment and final eviction has happened after New Life Church members recorded a video denouncing the violence of the regime of President Lukashenko against protesters last year, and calling for democracy and freedom for all citizens.



On the following Sunday, 21 February, dozens of Christians gathered in the snow outside the church building. “Despite the circumstances many people came to praise God, hear an encouraging word and pray for our country”, the church said on its Facebook page.





Statement of support of evangelical entities



Three Protestant entities in Belarus signed a joint statement on 19 February in which they expressed their solidarity with the church. Translated from Belarussian, it reads:



"We, the bishops of the Evangelical churches associations in Belarus, express our concern about the forced eviction of the church of Full Gospel Christians "New Life" in Minsk from the building at Kovaliova street, 72, which was legally purchased when the given building was still outside the capital. The difficulties with legal and practical questions concerning re-registration and operation of the building began to appear after annexation of the territory where the building is located to Minsk city. Unfortunately, in 15 years the city authorities did not come up with any mutually satisfactory solutions. On the contrary, on February 17, 2021 the New Life church was banished from the building in frosty weather practically to the street.



The Bible says: "Therefore if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member rejoices, all the members rejoice with it. And you are the body of Christ..." Expressing a united position, we believe that such actions are unacceptable in relation to any church community, regardless of denomination, and the officials who allowed such a development should, together with representatives of the community and the bishop of the Unification of the KHP, begin to seek a solution to this issue with the intention of resolving it in a way acceptable to all parties.



We urge all Evangelical churches to pray about the situation with trust in God Almighty, the righteous and just Judge!"



The statement was signed by the Full Gospel Union, the Baptist Union and the Pentecostal Union.


 

 


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