Minsk Church Spared From Eviction
New Life Church in the Belarus capital of Minsk fought and prayed for a reprieve from a government-ordered eviction.
Church members across the region joined in support after authorities served the Pentecostal church with a Nov. 27 order to vacate their church building no later than Dec. 5.
According to New Life's web site, the conflict began after a 1999 decision to sharply limit the ability of Protestant churches to rent worship space in Minsk. After holding open air meetings, New Life finally purchased a former barn in 2002. The next year, the location of the barn was added to the city limits of Minsk.
In the years that followed, New Life twice received city planning board approval to build on the site, only to have the permission withdrawn by order of the Religious and Ethnic Division of the city's executive committee. According to published media reports, a 2006 hunger strike by church members gained the attention of foreign diplomats and temporarily stopped officials from seizing the building.
Ensuing legal battles concluded in 2009 when a judge ruled in favor of the city and awarded the property to Minsk's city housing authority. Despite a ruling that the former barn must be vacated, worshipers continued to use the structure for church services, contending the property was seized illegally.
In November, city leaders announced a Dec. 5 eviction day for the 100-member New Life congregation. The church appealed to brothers and sisters in Christ as they negotiated with city officials.
According to the Russian Ministries Newsletter, New Life launched a massive effort to save their building: "The Church had written letters appealing to the Belarusian council of ministers and to the administration of the president. They also had someone stationed at the church 24 hours a day for prayer and protection. Many from around the world joined them in their protests and prayers."
At the end of the Dec. 4 prayer vigil, members rejoiced at the news that the former barn had been spared.
"This isn't the end, of course—the eviction is cancelled, but legally our land and building still belong to the authorities," New Life's administrator Vitaly Antonchikov told Forum 18.
photo credits: www.newlife.by