For several years, the New Life Church in Minsk has faced opposition from the government, including the complete destruction of their place of worship on 20 June. That act of destruction, however, did not stop ongoing harassment from government officials.
Each summer, the church organises camps for children. Unfortunately, on 10 July, a bus carrying 50 children overturned on a poorly maintained road. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries or any complaints. Even the state-controlled media published a report blaming the poor road conditions for the accident. However, the next day, the district tax office demanded financial reports from the church, along with any records between the church and the bus company. It is believed that the accident is now being used as an excuse to further harass the church.
On 25 July, the church’s website was blocked by the government without warning. It was discovered that the prosecutor has banned the website for six months, alleging that the church was publishing “extremist” information, along with inciting threats to national security. A hearing regarding this case was scheduled for 25 August.
The government’s opposition continued on 14 August when Pastor Vyacheslav Goncharenko’s house was searched by officers from the Organised Crime and Corruption Department. The pastor, along with his son-in-law, Ilya Budai, who serves as the church’s youth pastor, was arrested. The next day, Pastor Ilya was sentenced to five days’ detention for allegedly waving his arms and swearing at the police – an accusation strongly denied by a witness. The sentencing for Pastor Vyacheslav’s detention was ten days. The authorities gave no explanation for the senior pastor’s arrest, but it is believed that his detention may have been extended in order to keep him from attending the 25 August hearing regarding the alleged publishing of “extremist materials”.