On July 18th, criminal prosecutions for unregistered religious activities in Belarus came to an end. Although this would be good news for those who have faced prosecution in the past, it was replaced with fines up to five weeks' the average pay under the Administrative Code.
The abolition of relating criminal punishment is welcomed for there will no longer be people detained or facing criminal records for their involvement in religious worship. However, the change to summary fines means that the courts are no longer involved; along with that, there will be less ability to appeal the decisions of governing officials.
In recent years, the number of convictions for religious activities has dropped. And in the eight weeks since the new fines came into effect, there are no known cases where citizens have been charged. Nevertheless, concerns remain among churches and human rights advocates. To learn more on the persecution of Christians in Belarus, click here.
Prayerfully remember the leaders of unregistered churches in Belarus as they navigate the new regulations and how these changes could potentially affect future ministry opportunities and community outreaches. Pray that the governing authorities will realize the importance of permitting freedom of religion in their nation and, therefore, cease prosecuting those who peacefully meet to worship.