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World News

‘They just want to hear the truth’: Evangelical Belarusian Pastor speaks out on mass protests in the country

by Kelly Valencia

Thousands of people have marched in the Belarusian capital for the ninth consecutive weekend. Protesters want to see President Alexander Lukashenko resign amid allegations of electoral fraud.

The August presidential election gave Lukashenko his sixth consecutive term with 80 per cent of the vote. 

Several EU countries and the US have said that they do not recognise Lukashenko as the legitimate president of Belarus. Canada, the EU and the UK have imposed sanctions on the president and the country.

The scale of the demonstrations is unprecedented in the country´s history. The Pastor of New Life Church, Vyacheslav Goncharenko, told Premier that he has never seen people seeking the truth so persistently.

“It's a very simple request: they just want to hear the truth. They do not want to hear lies. Just want honest judgment… a free country, that their rights are respected.

“People were never able to express openly what they think and what they dream of in the last 26 years. I have never seen such a desire for truth as they have now and such hatred towards lies. I've never seen such openness to new [ideas] and to evangelism” said Goncharenko.

Human rights activists have been condemning the violence used by police during the mass protests. Police have been seen dragging protesters to their vans as well as directly firing tear gas and water cannons.

Goncharenko also explained that members of his church have been involved in the protests and have experienced first-hand the reported police brutality at the demonstrations.

“I see a large number of people from the church integrated in the community and participating in those events right now.

“More than 10 people have been seriously injured. Therefore, we know it not only by hearing, but we have been in it, because some of our people who have been injured are still recovering, both physically and emotionally.”

Goncharenko went on to explain that his church has suffered most from some of the government´s policies. In 2015, the church went on hunger strike for 23 days as a result of the government trying to take their building.

“Our church is 28-years-old and we have been through a lot of different situations. We had some 23 days of hunger strike, that it was our act of protest, so that our church building will remain as a church property and not be taken by the authorities.”

The current law in Belarus requires religious groups to have special permission to own a building for religious purposes as well as permission to preach in the streets.

“Evangelical and Protestant churches are seen as a threat; they are seen as cults. Because of this propaganda, the movement of evangelical churches is probably just 1 per cent [of the population].”

Goncharenko urged Christians to pray for freedom and for the possibility to continue preaching the gospel.

“Please pray that our country becomes free and also that no matter what happens, for the church to be able to share the gospel with every family in our country.”

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