Belarusian Full Gospel Church Defies Religion Law

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Christians pledge to preach gospel, despite possible persecution

Stefan J. Bos
Special Correspondent, ASSIST News Service with Keston News Service

MINSK/BUDAPEST (ANS) -- The Full Gospel Union of Pentecostal churches in Belarus has said it will defy what human rights groups call "Europe's most repressive religion law" because it "violates the law of God," news reports said late Tuesday, November 5.

"We believe that in this case the authorities have exceeded the powers given by God," said Union head Pastor Aleksandr Sakovich in a statement released by Keston News Service (KNS).

"The newly- adopted law forces us to violate the basic Law on which our faith is based: the Law of God, " he said. "As believers, we have the full right not to obey laws and decrees that go against our faith and conscience."

The Union, which unites 64 registered Pentecostal churches in Belarus, and other denominations fear that the new religion legislation could lead to persecution of Christians.

Under the law, which was signed by President Aleksandr Lukashenko on October 31 despite international protests, unregistered religious activity is banned.


It also requires compulsory prior censorship for all religious literature, and forbids foreign citizens from leading religious organizations. In addition religious education is restricted to faiths that have ten registered communities, including at least one that had registration in 1982.

As it also bans all but occasional, small religious meetings in private homes, the legislation is expected to make it even more difficult for evangelical, non-Orthodox Christians, to express their faith.

However Dmitry Zelensky, assistant pastor of the Jesus Christ Full Gospel Church in the capital Minsk made clear his congregations will refuse to stop preaching what is sees as the Good News.

"If the provisions of the law seriously complicate and in time make impossible the holding of services, communal prayers and preaching of the Gospel we retain the right not to submit to its provisions," KNS quoted him as saying.


The Jewish community has also expressed concern that a decade after the break up of the Communist-led Soviet Union, the law will make it once again difficult for Jewish believers to gather. Orthodox Chief Rabbi, Sender Uritsky, told Keston from Minsk that he was "not comfortable" about the fact that the Orthodox Church is recognized as the "main faith".

He added that the ban on unregistered religious activity and stricter registration criteria that require 20 adult citizen founders for each community, will render some smaller Jewish groups illegal. "It will be a problem to register newer communities, this is an important issue for us," Rabbi Uritsky said.

However in a statement the office of President Lukashenko has defended the new legislation as a "balanced legal basis to ensure that the freedom of every person individually, should be in harmony with the interests of society."

KNS, which closely monitors religious persecution said that this opinion has already lead to serious problems for Christians in the former Soviet republic. "Keston has already learnt of Protestant and other communities being denied registration after officials claimed a new church would provoke public opposition," KNS reported.

Several countries, including the United States and the European Union, have condemned the new religion law in Belarus.

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Award winning Journalist Stefan J. Bos was born on the 19th of September 1967 in a small home in downtown Amsterdam, in the Netherlands not far from the typewriter of his father, who was (and still is) a Reporter and ghostwriter. Already at a very young age Bos decided to become journalist and finally arrived in Hungary, the same country where his parents had smuggled Bibles during Communism.

Bos has traveled extensively to cover wars and revolutions throughout the region and received the Annual Press Award of Merit from the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for his coverage about foreign policy affairs including Hungary's relationship with NATO and the European Union. Stefan J. Bos can be reached at: