Darrow Miller and Friends

Belarus: Long Downhill Slide

While the 16th-century reformation under Francysk Skaryna marked the Golden Age of Belarus, the 20th century marked the nation’s decay.

In 1922, Belarus became a founding member of the USSR. The Soviets instituted a five-year collectivist policy that led to political repression and widespread famine for two decades.

When the Nazis entered Belarus during WW2, they instituted their plan to exterminate, expel or enslave Belarusians to provide more land for Germans. An estimated two to three million Belarusians were impacted. Before the war, some ten percent of Belarusians were Jews. Most of them died in the Nazi concentration camps.

Belarus Cultural House
Belarus Cultural House

The post-WW2 constitution affirmed freedom of religion, but the practice has not lived up to the promise. In 2002, President Lukashenko, a Soviet-style dictator, signed a new law establishing the “determining role of the Orthodox Church in the historical formation and development of spiritual, cultural, and state traditions of the Belarusian people.”

Despite the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, the 2002 law made unregistered religious activity a criminal offense. Any church that registered before the law took effect was required to re-register or face punishment. The law restricted church ownership of property and forbid the founding of schools to train pastors or provide Christian education for children.

In 2007, the government instituted a nationwide crackdown on churches and religious groups. Faithful Christians continued to engage under this persecution. Leaders established “Schools without Walls” to prepare a new generation of Christians to “lead the church in times of trials and persecution.”

Christians led the opposition to Lukashenko

In the 2010 election, Christians boldly led the opposition to Lukashenko’s government. Christian leaders ran for office. But Lukashenko and his cronies were elected to a fourth term. Christians stood up for freedom and a new reformation, leading national protests against rigged elections. The police broke up rallies and beat and arrested protestors.

I was in the country following the elections facilitating a pastors’ conference and witnessed this post-election crackdown firsthand. The police discovered our venue, interrupted the conference and arrested many of the pastors.

The crackdown on religious freedom in Belarus continues. Before 2014, the Democracy Index rated Belarus the lowest in Europe. Freedom House gives Belarus its lowest level—“not free.” The country has the least freedom of the press in Europe. Today’s decaying Belarus stands in stark contrast to its flourishing during the Reformation.

Please pray for Belarus, especially for pastors and young Christian leaders to “lead the church in times of trials and persecution.”

  • Darrow Miller

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).