Belarus (MNN) — Aleksandr Lukashenko was elected president of Belarus in 1994. "Since his election to the presidency, there has been a gradual tightening of restrictions against evangelical churches. They are not supposed to really evangelize publicly outside of their church buildings… They have a hard time registering churches, which they are required to do by government regulation," said Slavic Gospel Association's Joel Griffith.
In the past few weeks, a tit-for-tat dispute between the United States and Belarus has SGA keeping their eye on the situation. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions and travel restrictions against Belarusian government officials because of the country's human rights record. Belarus countered that by asking the U.S. to reduce the number of officials in the embassy. "Relations have not been good, and our concern, of course, has been that we‘re hopeful and praying that this diplomatic arguing that's going on between the West and Belarus would not have a ripple effect and cause further trouble for the ministry
of evangelical churches," Griffith said.
Even with the restrictions, Griffith said a miraculous thing is happening on the local government level. "In local regions, we're finding they actually are asking evangelical churches for help," he said. They've been asked to talk to the youth about HIV/AIDS and drug-use prevention and to help in outreach with children in orphanages.
"Local officials see the good that the churches are doing. They see the noble behavior in believers; they see their loving behavior; they see the way lives are changed as a result of
the ministries of the churches, and I think that makes a positive impact. So, despite what orders may sometimes come down from national officials, I think sometimes local officials tend to overlook it when they can because they know the churches are doing an awful a lot of good."
SGA works in Belarus sponsoring church planters. hey provide Christian literature and Bibles when the church needs them. They also sponsor a men's theological seminary there as well as Orphan's Reborn, a ministry where workers visit orphans in state-run orphanages to disciple the children for Christ.
Pray for the diplomatic spat to be resolved and for the protection of churches from any
resulting fall-out. Also, prayer is needed for the church to have the resources they need in ight of the ongoing economic down-turn.