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Evangelical Christians In Minsk Continue Church Protest

Worshippers at the New Life Church in Minsk

Worshippers at the New Life Church in Minsk

MINSK -- A nonstop concert in the building of the evangelical Christian New Life Church in Minsk that began in an attempt to thwart Minsk authorities from seizing the keys to the church and expelling the congregation continues the next day, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Minsk officials visited the church last week and told the congregation's leadership that the church building must be vacated by August 19 and that the building's keys should be turned over to them on August 20.

Evangelical Christians from other towns and cities of Belarus gathered in the disputed church on August 20 and started a concert, refusing to vacate the premises.

The building is an old barn in the Minsk suburbs that held livestock in the Soviet era. The New Life parishioners have been fighting to preserve the building as their place of worship for more than three years.

Minsk authorities say the property was "illegally privatized by the church in the 1990s."

Pastor of the New Life Church Vyachaslau Hancharenka told RFE/RL said that his parishioners were not afraid of police and would stay in the building to the end.

"We have given our hearts, souls and money to this building and nobody has a right to take it from us," he said.

Meanwhile, the church's lawyer Syarhey Lukanin. told RFE/RL that Minsk authorities have now signed official documents, according to which the building is legally city property.