Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Baptistas, Oct 21, 2004.

  1. Baptistas

    Expand Collapse
    <img src=/2836.JPG>

    Feb 20, 2002
    Likes Received:

    By Felix Corley, Forum 18 News Service

    The police chief in the town of Lepel [Lyepyel'] in Vitebsk [Vitsyebsk]
    region north east of the capital Minsk has angrily denied Baptist
    accusations that one of his officers beat local Baptist Andrei Fokin at the
    police station on 2 October. "That did not happen," Anatoli
    Shivlo claimed to Forum 18 News Service from his office in Lepel on 20
    October. "I conducted a verification of the claims and nothing
    confirms that he was beaten." Baptists have told Forum 18 that after
    his detention for running a street library in the town with fellow Baptist
    Yuri Fedoruk, Fokin was taken to the police station where he was beaten by
    Captain Igor Karaga. Forum 18 has been unable to reach Captain Karaga on 20

    Equally adamant that no-one had been beaten was Lepel administration head
    Pyotr Shikshnyan. "They've been feeding you disinformation," he
    claimed to Forum 18 from his office in Lepel on 20 October. "If Fokin
    says he's been beaten he should get a doctor's expert opinion and complain
    formally. It's just a fairy-tale." Yet he seemed remarkably well
    informed about the beating, which he claimed had not taken place. He also
    complained that the two men had sung hymns in the police station after
    their detention on 2 October.

    However, he did not deny that the police had repeatedly detained Fokin and
    Fedoruk, telling Forum 18 that police had explained to them each time why
    they had been detained.

    The two Baptists have long been conducting a street library ministry in
    Lepel, setting up a small table on the street, singing hymns and offering
    passers-by Christian literature. Baptist sources told Forum 18 on 10
    October that five times in the past three months they have been taken to
    the police station. "Not once was a record of their detention drawn
    up," the Baptists complained. "Most of the time the police
    officers didn't give their names and behaved rudely, accompanying their
    actions with bad language."

    The Baptists reported that on 2 October Fokin and Fedoruk were manning
    their street library as usual when the wife of the local Orthodox priest
    - who they say had long tried to obstruct their work - and her son
    phoned the police, who arrived and took the two men to the police station.
    After Fokin and Fedoruk began singing hymns as they were waiting, they
    claim that Captain Karaga grabbed Fokin "in anger", took him
    upstairs and started to beat him.

    Fedoruk tried to get close to the door leading up the stairs to hear what
    was happening to his friend but another officer moved him away. Fedoruk
    then contacted their pastors and other fellow Baptists, who started to
    telephone the police station to demand that the two men be freed. However,
    the duty officer N. Fedosenok denied that the two men were being held. They
    were later released.

    The following day, a Sunday, the two men again took their library to the
    streets and again the priest's wife called the police. The Baptists say
    that the Orthodox priest himself was also there. The police arrived and
    confiscated the books, but allowed the two Baptists to continue talking to
    the people who had gathered. Fokin and Fedoruk are members of a
    congregation that is part of the Council of Churches Baptists, who refuse
    on principle to register with the state authorities in CIS countries.

    Police chief Shivlo - who admitted that he knew Fokin personally -
    insisted to Forum 18 that the Baptists can only conduct such street library
    work in accordance with the religion law and other regulations. "They
    must get permission for any such activity," he declared. He refused to
    discuss with Forum 18 why literature had been confiscated from them and why
    they had been taken to the police station five times in the past three

    Lepel administrative head Shikshnyan likewise complained that the Baptists
    were violating regulations, by standing on the street to conduct their
    library ministry. "They were obstructing the cars and pedestrians
    trying to go past," he told Forum 18. "Let them come here to the
    town administration and apply and we will assign them a specific
    location." At the same time he claimed that there are "no
    restrictions" on religious life in Belarus.

    Many members of Belarus' religious minorities fear that, now the government
    of President Aleksandr Lukashenko has achieved what it regards as a
    successful result to both the referendum and parliamentary elections on 17
    October, government attention might turn to implementing Belarus'
    repressive religion law. Under Belarus' repressive 2002 religion law, all
    religious activity by unregistered religious communities is illegal (see
    F18News 7 October 2003
    and official restrictions on public religious events also exist (see
    F18News 1 September 2003 The influence of
    militant atheism on officials is strong (see F18News 18 November 2003, and close supervision
    by officials of religious communities is an integral part of central state
    policy (see F18News 9 February 2004

    The government claims that 77.3 per cent of voters backed a constitutional
    amendment allowing President Lukashenko to seek a third term in officer,
    and no opposition candidates were elected to parliament. The result of both
    votes are very strongly disputed inside and outside Belarus. The
    Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which refused to
    monitor the referendum, has criticised the election for "unrestrained
    bias and unregulated intrusion into polling stations." Endorsing this
    view, the European Union has described the process as having fallen
    "short from being free and fair," and is said to be considering
    imposing sanctions on Belarus.

    Under the religion law, a two year deadline for re-registering religious
    communities expires on 16 November 2004, and those who fail to gain
    re-registration by then risk losing any property they own. The most recent
    religious leader to criticise the religion law is Cardinal Kazimierz
    Swiatek of Minsk-Mohilev. "Unfortunately this law brings with it, in
    some respects, restrictions on religious activities," he told the
    Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, just ahead of his 90th birthday
    on 21 October. "Thus the registration of parish communities is
    prescribed, as is a visa requirement for priests from abroad. They have to
    renew their residence permits every year and recently the arrival from
    abroad of priests has almost come to a standstill. This law appears to
    normalise relations between the State and the Church, but does it in a way
    that suits the State, not the Church."

    For more background information see Forum 18's Belarus religious freedom
    survey at

    A printer-friendly map of Belarus is available at
  2. James_Newman

    Expand Collapse

    Aug 27, 2004
    Likes Received:
    These kind of things should make us ashamed that we are not on the street every day handing out literature, but praise God these brothers are out winning crowns! Here in America, brother Baptistas, we are more concerned with the earthly things like what to watch tonight on TV than saving lost souls. We have had an open door set before us, but that door is closing fast. God have mercy on us all.

Share This Page