Draft Law Threatens Religious Freedom and Targets Churches in Belarus
Belarus’ repressive new Religion Law has raised alarm among human rights defenders, religious communities, and international observers. The proposed legislation, which recently passed its first reading in the non-freely elected parliament, awaits its second reading. Critics argue that the draft law not only fails to meet Belarus’ obligations under international human rights law but also poses a significant threat to religious freedom in the country. As concerns mount, several churches, including the New Life Full Gospel Church, face the risk of being stripped of their legal status and becoming illegal.
New Life Church Faces Liquidation After Church Bulldozed
A Minsk court is set to decide the fate of the 31-year-old New Life Full Gospel Church, which faces the possibility of being stripped of its legal status and becoming an illegal entity. The hearing, scheduled to begin on October 6, comes 15 weeks after the regime bulldozed the church’s place of worship. If the court rules in favor of liquidation, any activity the church undertakes could result in a two-year jail term for its members. The timing of the liquidation suit, coinciding with the of the draft Religion Law in parliament, raises concerns about the regime’s intentions towards religious communities.
Red Church Remains Closed One Year After Suspicious Fire
Saints Simon and Helena Catholic Church, also known as the Red Church, in central Minsk, has remained closed for a year following a suspicious minor fire. The closure of the church, which has historical significance, adds to the growing list of religious sites facing restrictions in Belarus. The draft Religion Law, introduced to parliament on September 29, further exacerbates concerns about the regime’s encroachment on religious freedom.
New Life Church Targeted by Regime
The New Life Pentecostal Church in Minsk has faced severe repression by the regime, raising questions about its future legal status. The church’s place of worship was seized and demolished, and its Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko was jailed for ten days. Additionally, the church was banned from holding outdoor meetings in its car park, and its website was blocked for six months. In a closed court hearing, two internet postings from 2020 were declared “extremist.” When asked about the regime’s plans to strip the church of its legal status, Deputy Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs Sergei Gerasimenya refused to provide a clear answer.
The proposed Religion Law in Belarus has sparked widespread concerns about the erosion of religious freedom and human rights in the country. With churches facing liquidation, closures, and severe repression, the regime’s actions raise questions about its commitment to upholding international human rights standards. As the draft law awaits its second reading, the international community must closely monitor the situation and call for the protection of religious freedom in Belarus. The fate of religious communities, such as the New Life Full Gospel Church, hangs in the balance, highlighting the urgent need for action to safeguard fundamental rights in the country.