MINSK -- A 26-hour concert in the building of the evangelical Christian New Life Church in Minsk has begun in an attempt to keep authorities from seizing the keys to the church and expelling the congregation, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.
Minsk officials visited the church last week and told the congregation's leadership that they must vacate the church building by August 19 and turn over the keys to them by August 20.
Syarhey Lukanin, a lawyer for the New Life Church, told RFE/RL that the members of the congregation will stay in the church despite the officials' decision. "We will stay inside the church and we will be praying, because we are confident that it is our building," he said.
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 officials say the property was illegally privatized by the church in the 1990s.
Members of other Protestant churches in Belarus joined the New Life parishioners to take part in the marathon concert.
Reverend Antoniy Bokun, pastor of the evangelical John the Forerunner Church, told RFE/RL that in such a crucial moment all Christians in Belarus should show their solidarity with the New Life Church.