Column from Belarus: Like in the USSR, the state tries to wipe out the church


Christian Life

Zmichier Chviedaruk, CNE.news

Photo AFP, Alexander Nemenov

Everyday life in Belarus is getting more and more interesting. Last week, the so-called state government ruined the church building of the evangelical community “New Life”. With help of bulldozers and police forces, citizens can now see a beautiful wasteland instead of a modern church.

It used to be one of the biggest congregations in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. The church had almost 1,000 members. Why did the government do this, you ask? Maybe the church was a totalitarian sect, full of mass murderers and a place where parties with drinking blood of babies happened?

No. The situation was a little bit different. For some reason the government tried to get church land by breaking the law by force to sell it to some Russian or Arabian investors. They tried to say that the church building was hindering the progress and development of the whole region. In their logic, the visible church building spoiled the life of the whole neighbourhood. The government said that there is no place for evangelicals in a modern city.

Soviet cowshed

It was the first time since 1991 that the state authorities ruined a church building. In that year, Belarus got independence from Soviet Union. During the communist era, such practices were widespread. Thousands of churches were demolished because of official atheist state ideology. Also, thousands of ministers were killed or repressed. Communists tried to wipe out church presence from society. They tried to get rid of visible church thinking, to destroy church’s foundation, so that it would disappear soon.

The story of “New Life” started from 1992 when a new evangelical community was founded. The congregation bought an old building of a Soviet cowshed. People from the church did a great reconstruction in the years after that, all by themselves.

But after 2006, the country’s regime started its huge campaign against non-Orthodox confessions. The government stated that the building was illegal and tried to force “New Life” to leave the building.

From that time, lots of evangelical churches got together to stand against lawlessness and even provided a massive prayer hunger strike. For the first time in its history, the political regime seemed to lose a fight. The church still stood there for 17 more years. Until June 20th, 2023.

New law

Ruining “New Life” seems to be an opening statement for the new era under the upcoming law on “religious freedom”. Members of Parliament say that changes in regulation of church activity in Belarus are going to prevent the country from extremism, terrorism and confessional wars. The state wants to get control as it was during Soviet times.

Because of this, every church has to pass through re-registration process. And probably lots of Evangelical and Reformed churches will have huge problems in getting the new registration, because lots of pastors spoke against falsifications and brutal arrests after the presidential elections in August 2020. They don’t want to get their teaching approved in ideology offices.

Ministers without registration could possibly be arrested and put under criminal investigation if they decide to stay in the country.

Church against dozers

The whole picture seems to be frightful. Many will pay a price for faithfulness soon. It seems that if nothing will change some churches are going to have problems in coming together and could become invisible and underground.

We realise, that Belarusians in the 21st century are not the first Christians to face such difficulties. For example, John Calvin says in his “Institutes” that the church often suffered from wars, persecutions and heresies, that it even became invisible. “We affirm that the Church can exist without having a visible form. And even more so, one cannot consider the visible form that external luxury, which they so foolishly admire. The Church is distinguished by a completely different sign: the pure preaching of God's word and the correct use of sacraments.”

So, according to the Bible, Christ the Lord is the Only Head, Founder and foundation of the church. Not the state affirmation, not national status, not thousands of beautiful buildings. Our Lord Himself promised: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (ESV, Matthew 16:18).

We can be sure that even though a building can be ruined by a dozer, or a man can be killed or arrested, the church will stand as long as it stands on a true foundation of God’s redemptive acts and on His Word by God’s grace and for His Glory.

About the author

Zmicier Chviedaruk

Zmicier Chviedaruk was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1988.

He is member of a Reformed baptist church in that city. But he studies with the neighbours in Kyiv, at the Evangelical-Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU).

Zmicier is married with Anna and together, they raise a cat. He has authored the book “Reformation at all costs” about the history of the Reformed Church in Belarus in the 16th century. He likes reading, and listening to old-school rock from 80-90’s and plays in amateur football team “Libertas”.



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