Monday, November 17, 2008

KGB is "Interested" in the Activities of Church Minister

This is from the updated webpage of Belarus' New Life Church, just outside of Minsk. In October, I posted about a Christian ministry which operates within the country and does much good to improve the lives of impoverished and abandoned children. Unfortuantely, I had to remove it for security reasons (Christian activity has become illegal in Belarus, which has reverted to a police state).

On November 10 one of the helpers of New Life church’s pastor, brother Sergei Vashkevich has come to the Department of KGB of Minsk and Minsk region in accordance to the summons paper received by him earlier. KGB officers talked with Sergei for over 2 hours. During this talk they were asking him questions concerning the act of terror that had taken place in Minsk on July 4 this year and the past activities of Sergei in one of local NGOs. During this talk KGB officer wanted to take Sergei’s finger prints, to which, as well as to having to sign the protocol of his interrogation, Sergei refused. Sergei has argumented his position as follows: “as an evangelical, and as a church minister as well, I definitely could not have participated in such act of terror”. At the end of this “talk” KGB officer has promised not to invite Sergei for such “talks” in the future.

Several years ago, after passing the most repressive law on religious freedom in Europe (the EU has compared it to Stalin's 1929 decree on religious associations) the Lukashenko government tried to reposess New Life Church's building, an unheated, abandoned cow barn which the then-800 member congregation personally restored and was using for worship. Pastor Slava Goncharenko stood up to the police, as he had before, and 180 members of the church held an in-building hunger strike for weeks. The incident made international news and gained support around the world. While they retained their right to meet for worship, the government claimed they could not use the barn for anything other than a barn (although the land it stood on was residential and no longer agricultural). It is not unusual in Belarus for new laws to be invented spur of the moment at the whim of an official. The government was to "buy" the church back, at a tenth of it's real estate value.

I recently learned that the KGB has been operating once again at full force, and the communist youth organizations Young Pioneers and Komsomol have once again become de riguer - notwithstanding that a whole generation has grown up post-communism.

Also recently, deportations of other Christian pastors:

On the night of 15-16 of October border (frontier) services of the Republic of Belarus in the airport Minsk-2 detained, placed into detention unit for deportees and deported a famous Christian minister, Bishop Benjamin Brukh. The detention and the deportation were done without explanation of any reasons.

Benjamin Brukh is a protestant bishop and a pastor, a famous minister in Belarus, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ in Minsk, one of the largest protestant religious communities in Belarus. He served as the pastor of this church during 1991-2002. Borys Chernoglaz, the senior pastor of the Full Gospel Church of Jesus Christ, expressed his concern over this fact: “While the visa ban has been lifted on high-ranking state officials, the person who has contributed quite a lot to the spiritual development of the nation is not permitted entry into the country. I do not understand why without presenting any reason explanations Bishop Benjamin Brukh was not admitted into Belarus. In the last years not once he entered the country, he did not violate any laws, and there were not any claims against him. On this night he was detained and taken into the custody as a criminal”.

Benjamin Brukh is the citizen of Ukraine. During the time of his ministry in Belarus, his church and he personally have done a lot work in the spiritual and social spheres. In the last years he has been in Belarus on numerous occasions, as well as for a longer period of time, in compliance with the procedures established by the legislation of the republic of Belarus.

“We will make our utmost efforts to receive Belarusian state authoritities official explanation on Benjamin Brukh's deportation. In any case, it is obvious that in this situation human rights are violated, the rights of a protestant pastor in particular, and the image of our country is seriously harmed”, the lawyer and human rights consultant Sergei Shavtsov says.

New Life's congregants worshiping outside:

May they be spared any more "visits" from the KGB.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Thank you for that post. Very good information we should all be aware of. This is what we will most likely be seeing in the U.S. in the not to distant future.

Marie said...

Thanks for reading. Here is an excellent article on the situation, written by Bulgarian pastor Georgi Bakalov, who was deported a week before the Ukranian pastor was:

As he mentions in the piece, he participated in a protest against the Lukashenko dictatorship in front of the Belarussian embassy in Sofia. His other "crime"? Spreading the Gospel. The hardliners are as threatened by it now as they were 30 years ago.

Hadassah said...

That picture of the church worshiping in the open air with snow on the ground is convicting. Thanks for sharing.

The gates of hell will not prevail.