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Pastor arrested and fined for holding church services in parking lot

by Kelly Valencia

A Belarusian pastor has been detained, fined and later released for holding church services in a parking lot outside the church building of his congregation. 

Pastor Vyachevslav Goncharenko from New Life Church in Minsk was fined the equivalent of £1,300 for defying local authorities' orders to halt services in the parking lot.   

The congregation had been meeting outside it's building since February 2021 after the church was forcibly entered by police while members of the congregation were worshipping inside. 

The building has been closed since. 

The church's leadership and local authorities have been involved in a dispute over the ownership rights of the building for 20 years. 

New Life Church bought it's building - a former cowshed located in the western edge of Minsk - in 2002. The church then converted the building into a modern worship space, but authorities have rejected applications to change its legal designation as a cowshed. 

Current laws in Belarus require religious groups to have special permission to own a building for religious purposes as well as permission to preach in the streets.

According to the church, the authorities have refused to grant permission because they are a perceived threat to the government.

After his release, Pastor Vyachevslav published a video on the church's Telegram account thanking the congregation for their prayers. 

"Dear friends, I thank you all for your prayer. 

"Literally an hour ago I was released from Frunzensky [police station] where a protocol was drawn up against me and there was a trial, as a result I received a charter of 100 basic units [£1,200] so I found myself detained for all this time and that is how it all happened. 

"So, thank you for prayers. We continue to seek the Lord's will for the future, let's follow Him. Thank you goodbye."

Earlier this month, local authorities threatened to liquidate the church and criminalise its activities.

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