By Massimo Introvigne —
In August 2023, “Bitter Winter” reported that, after Minsk’s New Life Church was razed to the ground in June, members were told they were not allowed to gather outdoors either, and not even online.
New Life Church, founded in 1992, was one of the most successful Pentecostal churches in Belarus, with some 1,500 members. In 2002, New Life purchased part of a farm in Minsk and converted it into a church.
The church never had an easy life, but the situation took a turn for the worst when in 2020 its pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko posted a video criticizing the fraudulent 2020 Presidential elections. His participation with other Evangelical leaders in March 2022 in prayer events for Ukraine and to ask that Belarus did not participate in the war also did not contribute to endear Goncharenko to the regime.
Goncharenko was repeatedly arrested and, as “Bitter Winter” reported in September 2023, through subsequent decisions in August courts banned as “extremist” Internet postings the church had long since removed and the whole website of New Life.
We predicted then that these were steps preparing New Life’s Russian-style “liquidation.” Unfortunately, we were right. On October 17, the Minsk City Court pronounced the liquidation of New Life as “extremist.” The decision was confirmed by the Supreme Court on December 18. Last-minute appeals to save the church did not succeed.
This means that New Life no longer exists. Based on precedents, any gathering, even in private homes, of New Life believers may be raided by the police and the devotees arrested for engaging in “extremist” activities.
Other churches are of course at risk, as the Lukašėnka regime is following in the footsteps of Russia and is under the influence of Russian anti-cultists such as Alexander Novopashin who have declared Pentecostal churches “non-Christian” and “anti-Russian” “cults,” accusing them of spying for the Ukrainian and American governments. — Bitter Winter