Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has approved a legislation modification impacting the operations of religious organizations. The new law mandates that churches in the country undergo re-registration by January 2025; failure to comply could result in losing their permission to operate. These amendments, detailed in the changes to the law governing religious organizations, impose greater challenges for existing churches and establish more stringent criteria for establishing new ones in the nation. The presidential press services revealed on January 3 that President Lukashenko officially endorsed the document.
Restricting Political Involvement and Tightening Control on Social and Educational Activities:
The recent legislative changes dictate that religious organizations are permitted to partake in charitable endeavors, such as managing orphanages or assisting the elderly. However, a strict prohibition is imposed on engaging in political activities or aligning with any political party. Furthermore, using political symbols is strictly forbidden, with only religious symbols permitted. Participation in rallies is explicitly prohibited, and worship services are confined to premises designated by the local executive committee.
Amendments Bring Rigorous Oversight to Ecclesiastical Entities:
The amendments also impose stricter Sunday school regulations, as Mediazona reported. These educational institutions are now required to refrain from promoting “war, hostility, and extremism” and must align with the “ideology of generally recognized traditional values” prevalent in Belarus.
According to a report by InVictory, ecclesiastical entities are now required to fulfill specific criteria for registration, including the necessity of comprising a minimum of 15 local communities and demonstrating a history of at least 30 years of existence. Notably, individuals listed on the “extremists and terrorists” blacklist are prohibited from initiating the establishment of a church. Furthermore, the operation of a church without proper registration is strictly prohibited.
European Parliament Takes a Stand: Addressing Religious Persecution in Belarus:
In the latest update, Dylan Schexneydre, an American researcher, released a report on the status of religious freedom in Belarus for the year 2023, as reported by Belarus 2020. The findings underscore a persistent decline in religious freedom under President Lukashenko’s administration, prompting Schexneydre to express serious concern.
The European Parliament has also taken notice of the persecution faced by religious leaders in Belarus. On December 14, the European Parliament passed a resolution explicitly addressing the targeted persecution of clergy in the country.
In Our View, Christian persecution in Belarus intensified as recent amendments imposed stricter controls on Sunday schools, restricting their teachings. Ecclesiastical entities face stringent registration criteria, while individuals on the “extremists and terrorists” blacklist are barred from initiating churches. These developments signal a growing challenge to religious freedom, raising concerns about the state’s commitment to diversity and tolerance.