Belarusian Christians fined again for worship.

By November 7, 2005

Belarus (MNN)–Belarus’ harsh religion code is being used to punish Christians. The 2002 law cracks down on those worshiping without official permission.

Specifically, the code permits worship only by registered religious groups in either designated places of worship or pre-approved venues. The problem is getting the designation, recognition or permission.

Many of the local authorities responsible for giving the authorization simply refuse to do so, leaving many church congregations risking violation of the law.

The law holds the leader or person in charge of religious meetings responsible for failing to observe the legal procedure.

Voice of the Martyrs Canada’s Glenn Penner says their partner, New Life Church in Minsk, faces continued harassment and fines in their quest to have a place to worship. “A couple years ago, they bought a cowshed. They got permission from the city to go ahead and convert it to a church, but in the meantime, authorities have since rescinded that permission, and have fined the church administrator three different times and have threatened to close down the church.”

The fines are ten times the average monthly wage. The latest fine is no exception. Penner says the latest one is 3,825,000 Belarusian roubles (1,488 Euros or 1,780 US Dollars). The plight of New Life is not unusual. A number of other Protestant churches have reported similar experiences in recent weeks.

Penner says, regardless of the discrimination, believers in church in Belarus won’t be stopped. In fact, he says the pastors are insistent that they will continue to meet for worship and teaching.

“They are dedicated that they’re going to continue to reach out. They’re going to continue to try to do evangelistic work in this country,” Penner explains.

Could their stalwart decisions push the government to harsher response? It could, agrees Penner, but, “I don’t think you’re going to see a situation where Belarusian pastors are going to get arrested, but you’re going to see these incredibly heavy fines which are going to put tremendous burdens on the churches.”

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