Forum 18 reports on yet new moves by the Communist government of Belarus against unregistered evangelical churches. Understandably, some of those churches have not registered with the State because of moral convictions about the independence of the Church. However, others that are deemed to be unsatisfactory by authorities have simply been denied registration.
Mikhail Rybakov, press secretary of the Plenipotentiary for Religious and Ethnic Affairs insists, "Religious meetings and services are in line with the law only if the communities have registration. Otherwise the authorities have the right to interrupt services." And interrupt them they do -- even though such action is clearly against the constitution of Belarus as well as the general standards of human rights recognized by civilized societies.
In one of the recent cases Forum 18 describes, 20 policeman invaded a private home where a church was meeting. The policemen terrified the Christians, filmed proceedings, searched the entire house, confiscated loads of literature and belongings, and charged the pastor with the criminal offense of holding an unauthorized religious service.
In another case in which a church was invaded and Christians arrested, the unconstitutional policy of harassment was defended by one of the officials participating in the raid, Svetlana Starovoitova, the local head of the Orwellian-sounding "Ideological Department of the Regional Executive Committee." Starovoitova claimed that neighbors were complaining about "strange meetings and strange people coming."
Asked whether the church members violated public order, Starovoitova replied that they were...uh...singing.
Pray for the believers of Belarus.