It's now harder than ever to practice your faith in Belarus-if you're not Orthodox. The upper house of the Belarusian parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill on October 2 that places hefty restrictions on non-Orthodox religious activity.
Despite the pleas of international religious liberty advocates, President Alexandr Lukashenko signed the bill into law.
According to Keston News Service, the new law requires groups to "register" each of their religious activities. Government censors will now review all religious literature. Fewer groups will be permitted to register with the government (and leaders of unregistered groups will face fines). Only religions with at least 10 registered communities (including one registered before 1982) can publish or teach, and all but occasional religious meetings in private homes are banned.
Victor Ukhvanov, law professor at Belarusian State University in Minsk, said the law grants preeminence to the traditional Orthodox Church. (Belarus, nestled east of Poland and north of Ukraine, is under the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.)
"Practically all other denominations except the Russian Orthodox Church will face some new obstacles in their activity," he said. "The main feeling after reading this law is … the Russian Orthodox Church is more equal than others."
Many local governments already have begun to deny permission to show the Jesus film in public forums, according to Valery Tatarytski, head of Campus Crusade for Christ's Jesus Film Project in Belarus.
"Because government officials do not allow us to show the film a lot, we cannot rent movie theaters or clubs or cultural centers in the local villages," Tatarytski said. "Every month, the situation becomes more ...1
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