New Life Church stages demonstration in Minsk to press its demands

Some 700 people attended an authorized rally that a Protestant community called New Life Church staged in...


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Some 700 people attended an authorized rally that a Protestant community called New Life Church staged in Nations' Friendship Park near Minsk's Bangalore Square. The rally ended with a concert at about 7:30 p.m., with organizers calling on those present to go to the community's prayer house on Kovalyova Street to attend a mess.

Representatives of the community announced that its members' hunger strike would continue until the Minsk City Executive Committee and the Minsk Regional Committee satisfied the demands of the hunger strikers.

The community started the hunger strike on October 5, demanding that the community's land plot and its prayer house on the plot should not be taken away from it.

Despite the heavy presence of riot police troops, the rally passed off peacefully.

Up to 100 people were present at the New Life Church prayer house on Kovalyova Street while the rally was being held. This past July, a judge of the Minsk City Economic Court ordered the community to sell the building for 37,581,476 rubels, or some $10 per square meter, to the city executive committee, sustaining a suit by the Minsk City State Registration and Land Cadastre Agency.

As New Life Church Spokeswoman Inna Davydovich told BelaPAN, as of 6 p.m. October 21, there were 142 hunger strikers, with 39 of them, aged between 27 and 60, staying in the prayer house. In addition, she said 36 believers were hunger-striking in other cities of Belarus, as well as in Russia, Ukraine and Finland. Those present in the prayer house could hear what was going on in Nations' Friendship Park through loudspeakers connected to a handset in the park.

Ms. Davydovich also said that authorities had done nothing toward satisfaction of the community's demands since New Life Church Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko's October 17 meeting with Oleg Proleskovsky, head of the Main Ideology Office of the Presidential Administration. "But by telephone, government officials try to persuade believers that all problems of the community have been solved and the hunger strike has been stopped," she said.

According to Ms. Davydovich, the health condition of the hunger strikers were being monitored by a team of doctors delegated by the Union of Evangelical Christians. She added that the community had received more than 50 letters of support from Belarus, Britain, Germany, Canada, Norway and the United States over the past 24 hours.