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The right to believe, to worship and witness
The right to change one’s belief or religion
The right to join together and express one’s belief

BELARUS: Pentecostal evangelist to challenge fine

After a night-time visit by two police officers and a religious affairs official to an address rented by the Pentecostal Union in Zheludok, local evangelist Mikhail Balyk was fined 13 US dollars for allegedly conducting worship services in the town. Balyk told Forum 18 News Service that no worship services were taking place at the address cited - a domestic residence – and is preparing to appeal. His lawyer Dina Shavtsova told Forum 18 that unregistered religious organisations are often fined in this way, up to a maximum of 35 dollars. The main victims are small, established groups in rural areas.

BELARUS: Who shapes up to new religion law?

In the wake of the restrictive new religion law which came into force last November, despite widespread protests from believers, Forum 18 News Service has discovered that very few educational or monastic communities of the Russian Orthodox and Catholic Churches currently meet the tough new restrictions. Few monastic communities have the required minimum ten members, while no educational institutions have a full teaching staff who know both state languages, Russian and Belarusian. If they want to continue to operate, they must make substantial changes before the re-registration deadline of 16 November 2004.

BELARUS: Non-Moscow Orthodox "banned" from registering

State officials insist that the True Orthodox Church, which has three parishes and some 300 adherents, does not exist in Belarus. "There are no such parishes. There is no such Church," Aleksandr Kalinov of the government's Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs told Forum 18 News Service. Not only parishes of the True Orthodox Church, but those of the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church have been denied the right to register, while Belarus' president has vowed to use all state forces to protect the unity of the Moscow Patriarchate's Exarchate in the country. "Officially there is no ban on registering Orthodox parishes which are outside the framework of the Moscow Patriarchate," Oleg Gulak of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee told Forum 18. "But in practice – of course there is."

BELARUS: True Orthodox battle on for legal worship

Fr Leonid Plyats, priest of the True Orthodox parish of St John of Kronstadt near Minsk, told Forum 18 News Service that his community will fight on to be able to worship openly and legally despite the rejection on 27 March of his parish's suit to overturn the denial of registration. Denis Yelizarev of the government's Committee for Religious and Ethnic Affairs insisted that the Committee's assessment against the parish had been correct. "They slandered other faiths, that's why they were banned."