Belarus gained independence, but it continues to operate more like a Communist-era authoritarian regime - the President has kept his position since 1994! Elections do not reflect democracy, and Russia’s influence is widespread. A democratic revolution seems unlikely, but many do oppose the current regime and seek increased freedoms. Recent mass demonstrations, harsh reprisals, and international sanctions indicate growing local and regional opposition to such autocracy, but also the President's entrenchment - possible only through Kremlin support. Pray for hope, justice, and a brighter future for the people of Belarus.
The believing Church in Belarus is growing, even as Belarus's overall population slides downward. Much of the growth occurs in the context of persecution and state hostility, and often believers must meet in difficult circumstances. But the Church is definitely increasing in numbers, in maturity and in confidence.
The Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 occurred in the Ukraine, but affected Belarus most severely. Subsequent environmental and human devastation is significant, with 20% of the nation's land area affected, two million people uprooted and several thousand dead or dying from radiation-induced cancer. The government views "radiophobia" as the biggest problem now, since it prevents effective resettlement and recultivation of the affected area. Many charities were set up to care for those affected, particularly orphans and children born with health issues. Pray for wisdom for those overseeing resettlement, help for those already affected and hope for those who still live in uncertainty as a result of the disaster.
Orthodoxy and Catholicism enjoy privileged status as historic Slavic religious entities, but even these face limitations. Other denominations face opposition from the establishment.
- The acceptance of Russian Orthodoxy by the state is in keeping with a traditional Slavic identity, and Orthodoxy remains largely a ritualistic entity for the purposes of baptising, marrying and burying. Renewal and reformation within the ancient confessions could potentially impact millions; pray for such to occur.
- Religious movements face increasing pressure from government officials. These include Orthodox expressions that do not submit to the state-approved Moscow patriarchate (such as Old Believers, autocephalous and splinter Orthodox groups), Uniate Catholics, Protestants and groups such as Hare Krishna, Buddhists and pre-Christian pagans.
Evangelical Christians are increasing despite concerted opposition and intensifying persecution. The state steadfastly maintains laws that forbid meeting in homes for worship, forming congregations of less than 20 people, opening religious schools, ministering outside of the home city, and importing and distributing non-state-approved literature. All religious activity must receive state permission. All congregations are required to register; obstructionism in the registration process prevents many churches from meeting or growing. The inability to buy or rent property for worship is the biggest problem for evangelicals.
Foreign missionary presence is slowly being squeezed out by refusing visas for foreign religious workers; Catholic missionaries have been the most frequent victims of this approach. Even Slavs from neighbouring countries who have been specifically invited by churches to teach are often refused permission. Pray for divine openings and opportunities for those God is calling into Belarus; pray also that the national Church would be specially enabled to evangelize, disciple and minister without the partnership of many foreign Christian workers.
The Bible Society (UBS) finds a widespread desire for the Bible and Children's Bibles in both official languages. A Belarusian Bible completed in 2009, in collaboration with the Orthodox Church, is very popular.
- Get all of this content and daily notifications in our free mobile app. Download here ›
- Sign up for a daily e-mail that gets you the featured prayer point of the day straight to your inbox.
- This content is a curated selection of points from our book, Operation World. Find out more about it and all the rest of Our Publications ›
Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.