Belarus government building (Flickr/CC)
Belarus government building (Flickr/Dennis Jarvis)

Baptists in Vebel, north-eastern Belarus, have been detained and fined for singing songs and offering Christian books to passers-by in the market square, reports regional news agency Forum 18.

Two church members complained to the authorities at their treatment during their detention. Andrei Fokin sustained an injury to his face; the other church member said his hands went numb from handcuffs being put on too tightly.

Although churches should be registered with the state, like in many other former Soviet states, Baptists in Belarus refuse on principle, said Forum 18.

The Baptists in Vebel had enjoyed a long period without police harassment. The last time their activities attracted police attention was in 2004, when police detained Baptists who were running a street library.

Fokin could not explain why after so many years the police and courts had renewed pressure on the Baptist community.

“I’ve been conducting the street library ministry for 16 years, offering Bibles, children’s literature and magazines for people to read and return,” he told Forum 18. “Over the last 10 years we never had any conflicts.”