On 1 June a musical group of Baptist believers arranged a performance on the streets of Drogichin in southwestern Belarus. In addition to providing uplifting music, the Christians shared their faith with those who passed by. One of the evangelists, Vladimir Burshtyn, is a Christian man in his early 70s. He travelled 110 kilometres from his home in order to participate in the meeting.
Police soon intervened at the event, forcing the believers to stop their presentation. Vladimir was then taken to the local police station where he was charged for allegedly “[violating] the procedure for organising or conducting a mass event or demonstration”. It is believed that the elderly Christian man was targeted by the authorities because he had been punished in the past for “organising unapproved events”.
Vladimir was detained until he was taken before the judge the next day. During a closed hearing, the judge fined him 555 Rubles (approximately $330), which is equivalent to more than a senior citizen’s average monthly pension income. An appeal for the ruling is planned.
When the religion laws were passed in 2002, regulations governing faith-based groups in Belarus were considered the most restrictive of all European countries. As the government is in the process of revising that legislation, with the intent of adding further restrictions, a draft of proposed changes has been released.