The pastor of a church in Belarus repeatedly targeted by government entities now faces more actions following a bus accident apparently caused by road conditions.
Vyacheslav Goncharenko has been jailed for at least 10 days due to the government’s renewed focus on New Life Church in Minsk, Belarus, where Goncharenko serves as pastor, states Forum 18 News Service.
An Aug. 23 court hearing was scheduled due to the accusation that New Life Church is producing “extremist” materials. According to charges, these materials threaten national security and sow disinformation.
On July 10, an Excurs Trans Company bus carrying 50 children overturned about 55 miles from Minsk on a poorly maintained road. The bus was en route to a summer camp that New Life Church organized, states Forum 18. No one was seriously injured.
Since then, government entities have demanded the church’s financial reports, blocked the church’s website, arrested Goncharenko and Ilya Budai (the pastor’s son-in-law and the church’s youth pastor), searched the pastor’s house and sentenced Goncharenko to 10 days in jail and Budai to five days.
Some other official actions through the years include evicting the congregation from New Life’s building (2021), detaining and fining the pastor (2022), banning the church’s outdoor meetings, demanding taxes equivalent to 25 years of wages for an average worker (2021, renewed in 2023) and ultimately, razing the church building (June 2023), reports Forum 18.