Security officers broke into the New Life church and kicked the churchgoers out
20 February 2021 | Voice of Belarus
On 17 February 2021 in Minsk, court bailiffs together with the police came to the New Life protestant church to evict the churchgoers from the building. When the churchgoers refused to let them in the locksmiths cut the lock down and interrupted the prayer which was taking place inside. Threatening with arrests the police ordered everyone out allowing people to only take some of their personal belongings.
In the morning of 16 February, the sky turned white-red-white in many cities across Belarus. Having learned about what happened in the New Life church, one of the well-known Belarusian producers left a comment on Facebook: “They are looking for God to hand over court summons on the account of yesterday’s white-red-white sky.”
The history of confrontation between the authorities and the protestant church
The history of confrontation between the authorities and the New Life church started in 2005 when Minsk authorities decided to evict the New Life church from the building it occupied, built back in 1992.
Between 1999 and 2004, the church was denied rental occupancy, and services had to be held outside. Since the building of the former barn was legally owned by the church, the churchgoers were forced to renovate this building on their own and at their own expense. These efforts resulted in that the building became suitable for holding services.
However, by the decision of the Minsk City Executive Committee in 2005, the building and the land were confiscated “due to improper use”. The intended purpose was for cow breeding, but this was prohibited since in 2003 this land became part of Minsk city limits.
Subsequently, the church was offered very little compensation for the building, despite the fact that immeasurably more had been invested in the renovation. The churchgoers considered this decision unfair. They were supported by other citizens, more than 3,000 signatures of local residents were collected in support of placing the church building on the site of the former cow barn.
After the residents appeal was disregarded, the church declared a hunger strike which lasted 23 days. As a result, Vyachaslau Hancharenka, the church pastor, was invited to the Presidential Administration, where he was asked to end the hunger strike, and was assured that actions would be taken to protect the rights of the churchgoers, and a promise was made that the issue would be resolved.
Churchgoers were not forgiven for condemning violence
The pressure on the churchgoers intensified in early 2021, after a pastor of the New Life protestant church had condemned the lawlessness and brutality in August 2020. The churchgoers also recorded a video condemning the violence against civilians.
There are over 1,500 churchgoers in the congregation of the New Life church. More than 50 services take place. The church does a great deal of charity work, helping the homeless, people with alcohol addiction, orphanages, boarding schools, hospices, health care institutions, and large families. The church fosters moral values in children, adolescents and youth, advocates for family values. The church also has a volunteer center which cooperates with the social services’ centers within district administrations and helps in overcoming the consequences of the pandemic.
For the last 5 years the New Life church for the deaf has been functioning in the building from which the churchgoers were evicted. Recently, the church hosted a large conference for the deaf from all over Belarus. Several times a year the church hosts giveaways for those in need. Each time, almost 100 people from different parts of Minsk come here to pick up clothes and shoes free of charge, donated by the churchgoers. Whatever is left after the event is sent to the regions. A festive ball for people with disabilities called “A Night to Shine” was held by the church twice already at the church’s premises on Kavaliova Street 72. Each time about 90 people with disabilities took part in it. They were joined by volunteers accompanying each of the participants, as well as organizers, artists and many others.