Belarus, … located on the Eastern edge of Europe and only 400 miles from Moscow, … was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. During the Soviet rule, the country was divided into six administrative districts known as Oblasts.
The 70 years of Communist Rule by the Soviet Union has left other monuments as well; … the drab shoebox style apartment buildings lined up row after row, the decaying heavy industrial areas in the larger cities, and the tall smokestacks of the power and heating plants.
The fall of the Soviet Union allowed many of its republics, including Belarus, to declare independence. However, for Belarus close economic and political ties with Russia remain. Independence made little difference to most Belarusian’s since they were reasonably happy with Soviet rule. Changes were made in the industrial activities requiring some plants to close while others expanded. The Belarus tractor factory, for example, began exporting its products worldwide. Petrochemical industries in the south, along with large-scale agricultural enterprises continued to contribute to the economy but with only modest expansion.
The first few years after independence were characterized by personal freedom unknown to Belarusian’s. They could move about within the country without fear of the intrusion from secret police and were free to worship and praise their God.
(Music – Worship song from one of the churches)
The evangelical Believer could now openly share their faith with others. It appeared that there was a new day for Believers.
But this freedom of religion was short lived. A new president was elected who rewrote the constitution and enacted laws that curtailed much of the free press. Additional laws have made it difficult to share one’s faith or to start new evangelical churches. Indifference and apathy allowed this transformation back to a Soviet style dictatorship. The people have lived for centuries under an authoritarian government and they are comfortable with this way of life. The “good old days” of Soviet rule was considered a time of peace and stability.
Appearance and stability is important for the Belarusian. This is seen as they spend time in a park and visit with friends and family; as college students stopping to enjoy a cup of Kavas; and as a large group of young pioneers meeting with parents, teachers and fellow members. Flowers along the roadway and in the city parks portray the theme of a peaceful and prosperous country. In the past few years, apartment and office buildings have been cleaned and painted bright colors on the outside. The roads, highways, and public transportation systems are much improved. The shelves in retail stores are well stocked with a variety of merchandise. For the most part, the appearance is just a veneer and not representative of reality. The economy of Belarus is still much below European standards. Wages are very low with salaries dictated by the government. New jobs are few and the future employment for young people is uncertain. Belarus has a negative population growth because of low birth rate and immigration to other countries.
The State supports the Orthodox Church providing for construction of new temples; temples that are monuments declaring the official State religion and excluding other beliefs. While 98% of Belarusian’s claim a Christian faith, few attend worship services and fewer still know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
The new day ushered in by independence may be turning to night for Believers in Belarus. It is becoming increasingly difficult to establish new evangelical churches and Bible studies. Gaining government approval for meetings and a meeting place is difficult particularly in the rural areas where there are very few Believers.
Evangelical Believers represent less than one percent of the population and are considered a cult by the government and by the Orthodox Church. Nevertheless, many have a deep and enduring faith in Jesus. Those who seek to share their faith and to establish new churches continue on their journey despite the obstacles placed in their path.
Will you pray that the faith of Believers will shine for all to see and many Belarusians will come to know Jesus personally?
“Jesus spoke to them again, ‘I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me shall not live in darkness
but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12
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