Human Rights House Foundation

Belarus

Image: The biggest hunger strike in  the modern Belarusian history

The biggest hunger strike in the modern Belarusian history

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Since October 6 “New Life” Full Gospel Protestant church parishioners continue termless hunger strike in Belarus. The reason is the Belarusian authorities’ intention to divest the church of legally acquired the lot and the premises for the church service. Today 175 is the figure of starveling people. Believers tend to take a strong stand, so do the authorities.

illustrated by www.nn.by

 “New Life” church official status
“New Life” Full Gospel church is one of the largest Protestants communities registered in Belarusian Ministry of Judgement. It was registered in 1992 and has 10 branches all around Belarus. Every week about 1000 people participate in “New Life” worship.
In 2002 the church legally bought the premises of the former 1641 m2 floor space cowshed, for the purpose of adapting it to the religious building.
Now Belarusian authorities demand to leave the church building because, in their opinion, the premise is used out of accordance with the intended purposes.

The premises' price
There was an authorities’ decision made of the forced redemption of the church’s premises at the price of about $17000= $10 for the m2 (for comparison, Minsk average price is about $1000 for m2). The believers called this “the robbery”; submitted an application for the rally holding and went of hunger strike. Starveling believers tend to defend their property and the right for the church service place.  
They send out an appeal to the Belarusian NGOs and try to attract society’s attention to the difficulties of all the Protestant communities in the republic.

mapStarving people demands
“New Life” church’s Protestants raise the following demands:
* abolish municipal bodies’ decision in accordance with which the church’s premises have to be sold to the local authorities at a scanty cost.
* allow reshaping of the church’s premises into the religious building.

Reaction
No doubt that the mass hunger strike attracts public attention not only in Belarus but in foreign countries(Russia, USA, Czech Republic, Latvia, German and others).  People express their capability to the starving believers.
Local authorities react in their usual manner - they advise the church’s regional representatives not to accede to the hunger strike. Otherwise they will have problems.  
Television has shown the running commentary where the church’s building was names as “the cows” temple”. There was also said that all the action is politically motivated and lavishly financed by the West. Reporters expressed the idea about the “forced nature of the hunger strike”.
The “New Life” church representatives consider this as an attempt to form public opinion about the necessity of the forceful resolution of the conflict.  

According to Human Rights center “Viasna”  “suchlike situation became possible as the result of the state policy in the field of the freedom of conscience. After the adoption of “Religion Law” new edition in 2003, the religious community was divided into 2 groups: ‘conventional’ and ‘unconventional’ one. Suchwise the discriminating norms concerning ‘unconventional’
churches and religions were put. Some religions are supported and financed by state; others are brought to administrative responsibility because of the church service at the privet apartments. We consider this as the obvious violation of the Belarusian citizens’ right to ecclesiae. The situation around “New Life” church is illustrative one”.


 

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