Town in Belarus Begins Harassing Christians After 13 Years of Silence
For the last 13 years, Belarus has allowed Christians to operate churches and a religious library in Lepel, a town in northeastern Belarus. Recently, police have begun detaining church members again and courts are fining Christians. Charges include singing, handing out Christian books, and not being registered. The Christian who owns the Christian bookshop is confused why such harassment is starting after such a long period of quiet. In addition, one of the Christians detained said that police hurt his face and caused his hands to go numb. The Christian filed a complaint but an investigation has not started.
12/07/2017 Belarus (Forum 18) – In mid-October, thirteen years after the last police disruption, police in the town of Lepel in Vitebsk Region in north-eastern Belarus again began detaining Council of Churches Baptists. Since then, police have repeatedly detained church members for singing and offering Christian books and magazines to passers-by on Saturdays at the entrance to the town market. The local court has fined and warned church members.
During one of the incidents, church member Andrei Fokin said that officers injured his face and put handcuffs so tightly on another church member that his hands went numb. He complained about this torture to the Prosecutor’s Office, but no police officer appears yet to have been brought to justice (see below).
Council of Churches Baptists do not seek state registration on principle. Church members in Lepel have run a street library since the 1990s. The last previous police disruption of it was in October 2004 (see F18News 20 October 2004 http://www.forum18.org/archive.php?article_id=436).
Fokin could not explain why after so many years police and the courts have renewed pressure on the Council of Churches Baptist community. “I’ve been conducting the street library ministry for 16 years, offering Bibles, children’s literature and magazines for people to read and return,” he told Forum 18. “Over the last 10 years we never had any conflicts.”