Belarus (MNN) — The U.S.
ambassador to Belarus was expelled, and the Belarusian envoy was recalled Friday in
a diplomatic move that is raising the hackles between the two countries. It could further isolate Belarus from Europe.
Although the U.S. ambassador to
Belarus was asked to leave, the U.S. State Department wanted to review the
situation first and asked her to remain in the former Soviet republic for now.
The Foreign Ministry blamed U.S.
sanctions imposed on Belarus's national oil products firm Belneftekhim for
Slavic Gospel Association's Joel
Griffith says the situation has been building even though there have been some
attempts to improve relations. Things
soured when the U.S. and the European
Union barred Alexander Lukashenko for rigging his 2006 re-election.
Griffith notes, "This [latest]
move of actually recalling the ambassador is a significant escalation of the
tensions between the West and Belarus. We certainly have to keep our eyes open for any potential fallout."
SGA sponsors the Minsk
Theological Seminary in Belarus, among other ministries. These seminaries provide solid, biblical
courses of study for pastors, Christian education workers, music leaders,
children's and youth workers and church planters. The education these faithful
students receive is equivalent in scope to that offered by top theological
seminaries in the West.
Griffith says it's too early to
tell how the expulsion will change the atmosphere they're working in. "We're hopeful that this will not have
too much effect on our ministry directly. It certainly does have the potential
to affect Western workers there, and on that note, we would certainly encourage
prayer that the Lord would intervene in this situation and cause things to
smooth down. Our prayer is that evangelical churches and evangelical ministries
would not be affected."