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Belarus Evangelicals Vow To Keep Church After Fine

Pastor Vyachaslau Hancharenka
MINSK -- The pastor of the New Life Evangelical Church in Minsk was found guilty of obstruction of justice and fined $150 today, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Vyachaslau Hancharenka told RFE/RL that despite the pressure officials have put on him and his congregation they will continue to fight to keep their church building. The parishioners have not allowed police to enter the building housing the New Life Church since they were ordered to vacate it in August.

Minsk officials visited the church last month and told the congregation's leaders that the church building must be vacated by August 19 and the building's keys turned over to them.

Meanwhile, members of the congregation have remained in the church around the clock since August 24, refusing to leave the building, which is an old barn in the Minsk suburbs. It was converted by parishioners into a church in the early 1990s.

Minsk authorities say the property was "illegally privatized by the church." Hancharenka said that in general he and his church have paid more than $10,000 to local authorities in fines since 2005.