New Life Struggles for Its Life: One Hunger-striker Hospitalized
The hunger-strike of Protestants from the New Life church is going on. According to the legal adviser Siarhei Lukanin, by now the hunger-strike is kept by more than 200 persons and their number is growing.
He said to HRC Viasna: ‘We don’t have any reasons to stop the hunger-strike. It will continue till the authorities pay any reaction. I am sure that we have enough human resources to go on for as long as it is necessary.’
Mr Lukanin kept the hunger-strike for three days but than stopped it because of the necessity to execute his professional duties. Yesterday he received a telephone call from the housing economy of Maskouski borough of Minsk. They proposed him to sign the act of passing the house to them on behalf of the church, but he refused. ‘We consider the decision of Minsk City Executive Committee to force us to selling the building illegal. I should remind that the price they appointed is 10 US dollars per square meter. It is an obvious robbery,’ complained Siarhei Lukanin.
The hunger-strikers have voiced the following claims: abolishment of the illegal decision of the CEC according to which the building is to be bought out by the state at understated price and change of the category of building so that masses could be legally served there (the authorities still consider the building as a cowshed, whereas the Protestants have reconstructed it to a temple).
At day about some 30-100 people stay in the building, but in the evening there are much more, because people return there from work and educational establishments.
The church administrator Vasil Iurevich said that believers from other regions of Belarus not only hold home hunger-strikes of solidarity, but also come to Minsk. ‘Here we have people from many cities. In addition, today we have received several telephone calls from Orsha and Vitsebsk. Some people told us they got absence leaves from their jobs and will join us tomorrow’,’ Mr Iurevich said.
The Pastor of New Life church Viachaslau Hancharenka is satisfied by the support given by other confessions. Yesterday the hunger-strikers were visited by 10 priests. Viachaslau Hancharenka points that the case of New Life is not unique: ‘I know that in Moscow there is a church of Pastor Alexander Purshag. The believers bought there a Culture Palace and the authorities used similar methods to take them out. The whole parish lived there and finally managed to defend its property.’
New Life has 10 branches in Belarus and 1 in Azerbaijan. Some of them have can’t use their buildings anymore, because the authorities put obstacles to it. In 2005-2006 there were liquidated three Protestant associations whose pastors are Ernest Sabila, Leanid Lipen and Heorhi Viazouski. Mr Hancharenka believes that in the case of Minsk branch of New Life the authorities are showing their general attitude to the church. It is worth reminding that this is one of the larges Protestant associations registered by the Ministry of Justice. It obtained registration in 1992. Sunday masses are attended by about a thousand persons. In 2002 the church bought from the state a cowshed whose space was 1641 square meters. However, the believers have struggled for this building for more than a year again. The authorities demand from them to leave the building and state that the cowshed must be used as such, not as a temple.
Yesterday, on 11 October, the church was visited by a medical brigade from the policlinics of Frunzenski borough of Minsk. The medics behaved in a strange way: first they put down the passport data of all hunger-strikers and only after it examined the people. They said that the majority was in satisfactory state, but some of them made them anxious, mainly old ones and those who maintain dry hunger-strike. Today one of the participants of the hunger strike, a man of 35, has been taken to a Minsk hospital because of health problems.