Missionaries Warn Of "Crackdown" in Belarus

Friday, March 31, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

MINSK/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- An influential evangelical mission group in the former Soviet Union expressed concern Wednesday, March 29, over a "crackdown" on Christian believers in Belarus following the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko.

In a statement to the BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest, Russian Ministries said it has become "obvious to the Christian community that believers in Belarus are being persecuted for the cause of Christ." Russian Ministries added that there is "is some sentiment that the Orthodox Church enjoys freedoms that other faiths do not," after Protestant leaders gathered in Minsk to discuss the current situation in mid-March.

Especially evangelical groups have complained about what they see as growing harassment against them by Belarusian authorities and the secret police in the period leading up to the March 19 elections and in its immediate aftermath.

"During the pre-election period KGB workers paid special attention to Christians and Christian gatherings," Russian Ministries added.


"A month before the elections, a pastor of a Baptist church in Minsk was arrested and detained for 10 days. The pastor was accused of violating Article 167-1 of the administrative code that prohibits the systematic conduct of a mass religious gathering at a location not specifically intended for such a purpose," the group added.

Russian Ministries said that with the re-election of Lukashenko "hope for any kind of a democracy diminishes for Belarus." It is believed that the Belarus government is concerned to lose its power base as an increasing number of Orthodox believers move to evangelical congregations that are perceived as more pro-Western.

However the Belarus government has denied wrongdoing, accusing the West of propaganda. Neighboring Russia also recognized the March 19 elections as free and fair.


However the United States has described Belarus as the "last dictatorship in Europe," and along with the European Union threatened with sanctions following a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

Hundreds of opposition supporters have been arrested in recent days. Despite the apparent setbacks, Russian Ministries said Christian workers "are uneasy but continue to proclaim the good news of Christ." It said is has set up an active ministry center in Minsk as well "as a growing School Without Walls program there" aimed at teaching Biblical principles.

There are currently 110 students enrolled in that program and over the last six years, 4,000 children have participated in 52 evangelistic summer-camps in Belarus, the group claimed. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Belarus).

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