Protestants Defend Their Right to Have Tent Camp
Believers of the protestant community “Church of Jesus Christ” defended their summer camp in Valozhyn area which gathered about one hundred children. The local authorities demanded to close the camp down if all the required formalities had not been completed. They asked for a list of all the camp participants, for permission of the regional administration and of the Committee for Religious Affairs.
Pastor of the Church of Jesus Christ Barys Charnahlaz told RFE/RL that the family summer camp organized by the believers near Aksakauschyna village of Valozhyn district would be open until July 15th.
Barys Charnahlaz said that the believers managed to come to a compromise with the local authorities which intended to close the camp down.
On July 10th head of the ideological department of Valozhyn executive committee Aleh Bobryk and two committee staff members (they were accompanied by two persons in civic clothes who refused to introduce themselves) arrived to the family summer camp.
They asked for a list of all the camp participants, for permission of the regional administration and of the Committee for Religious Affairs.
Deputy Chairman of the district executive committee Piotr Bibik explained to RFE/RL that the actions of the head of the ideological department were not politically motivated.
“If it is a religious organization then it is necessary for them to get permission of the higher authority a set up a camp. However, they don’t have the permission. There is no list of the camp participants either. The most important thing is that if it has any relation to religion then the consent of the department for religious affairs is required”.
This summer camp is organized for many years. This year we have gathered all the necessary papers. The officials intended to close down the camp by all possible means. But all our papers are in order. The authorities acknowledged that and allowed us to complete the camp season. That is a sort of the family leisure time with cultural programs, sport events as well as free hours for the family to wander about the forest, or swim in the river. But the believers may also spend some time in prayers”, Church pastor Barys Charnahlaz says.
Barys Charnahlaz thinks, the law is directed at total control of the minors. For example, the parents’ permission for their children to have a rest abroad is not enough for the authorities. They demand permission of the administration of an educational establishment.
“In our opinion, this is violation of the right of parents to decide the fate of their children. This is an attempt of total control over a family”, -- Charnahlaz says.
Last year the authorities violently stopped the work of the camp near Smarhon. Sixty people, only 15 adults among them, were put on buses and convoyed to Minsk by border military police.