New Life Church ordered to vacate its prayer house by December 5

Surrendering the building to the authorities is out of the question...

The Minsk City Economic Court has ordered New Life Church vacate its prayer house by December 5, the Protestant community`s lawyer, Syarhey Lukanin, told BelaPAN on Wednesday.

New Life Church 

Surrendering the building to the authorities is out of the question, Mr. Lukanin said. "Our church council decided earlier today that we will stay in the prayer house 24 hours a day and ask God to bring the authorities back to their senses and show us what to do and how to react to their actions," Mr. Lukanin say. "In addition, we will have prayer services in the church every evening. We invite everyone, including journalists, to attend them."

Under an eviction order, which arrived by mail November 27, the community is required to leave the building on Kavalyova Street by 11 a.m. on December 5, make a set of keys for local housing officials, and provide the necessary transportation and workforce for vacating the premises.

New Life Church, the largest community of the Association of Full Gospel Christians, obtained state registration in December 1992 and is said to have more than 1000 members. In 2002, the community bought a former cowshed together with a four-acre land plot from a kolkhoz. It converted the building into a prayer house and some 500 to 700 people gathered there each Sunday for worship.

The area was later added to the territory of Minsk, and the city government decided in 2005 to confiscate the plot and ordered New Life Church to sell the former cowshed to the city for 37.6 million rubels, or some $10 per square meter. Officials explained that this amount was what the building had been worth before New Life Church converted it into a prayer house without permission.

In July 2010, New Life Church was ordered to pay nearly $83,000 over alleged environmental damage. The community decided to pay nothing, which means that its leader, Vyachaslaw Hancharenka, may be charged under the Criminal Code`s article that penalizes heavy damage to land and provides for a maximum penalty of five years in prison.