|Republic of Belarus|
Area 207,600 sq.km. Landlocked, fertile agricultural land with extensive forests on the North European plains. Surrounded by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Smallest of the three Slavic nations of the former USSR.
Capital Minsk 1,862,000. Urbanites 65%.
Slav 98.8%. Belarusian 6,715,000; Russian 3,265,000; Ukrainian 133,000.
All other peoples 1.2%.
Literacy 97.9%. Official languages Belarusian and Russian; many are more fluent in the latter. All indigenous languages 2. Languages with Scriptures 2Bi.
A strong agricultural and industrial base. The failure to change Soviet economic structures has fuelled inflation, hindered foreign investment and crippled economic development. Economic decline has been even worse than that of Russia and Ukraine. The dire consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster still massively impact the Belarusian economy and health services. HDI 0.763; 60th/174. Public debt 3% of GNP. Income/person $2150 (6.8% of USA).
A separate member of the UN since WWII, but Belarus had never been an independent state until 1991. Political leadership still clings to the autocratic Communist past and has alienated many foreign powers with its xenophobia and aggressive stance. The government continues to press for Belarus to be included in the Russian Federation.
The religious freedom of the post-Communist era seems to be fading. Christianity of all stripes has flourished in recent years, although the dominant Orthodox Church seeks to restrict the activities of other Christian groups. Protestant churches are refused building permits in the cities.
1 Belarus stumbled into an unexpected independence and is still searching for a national identity. Progress is crippled by the lack of political and economic freedom needed for growth. Pray for true democratic and religious freedom.
2 The cultural dominance of Poland and Russia lasted for many centuries. Pray for a truly indigenous expression of Belarusian Christianity to be developed and then spread using all methods: church services, theological education, literature, broadcasting.
3 The Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 occurred in the Ukraine, but affected Belarus most severely. The environmental, economic, and psychological impact of the nuclear fallout has since devastated the country. Twenty-five percent of the land area much of it formerly productive agricultural land is considered uninhabitable. Radiation-related health problems still occur at 80 times the global average. Pray that in this climate of despair God may use believers as ministers of restoration and hope.
4 The post-Communist honeymoon with religion is ending. While the Orthodox Church enjoys privileged status as a Slavic religious entity, other denominations are experiencing opposition from the establishment. While many call themselves Christian, there is still a great need for renewal within the large Orthodox and Catholic structures. Pray for the Holy Spirit to sweep through Belarus, bringing people to personal faith in Christ.
5 Evangelical Christians are increasing despite low-level persecution. Pray that the various evangelical groups different denominations, registered and unregistered churches might be able to work together in unity. The inability of Evangelicals to use public buildings for church meetings and the forbidding of public evangelism hampers growth. Pray for:
6 Missions. Belarus has received far less attention from missions than her Slavic neighbors, Russia and the Ukraine. Pray that the Lord might call more people to serve long-term in this needy land. Pray that Western missionaries in Belarus might have a sensitive and humble spirit, working as servants with the local churches. Pray for a spirit of wisdom in ministering which avoids drawing negative attention from hostile authorities and the media.
a) The Bible Society (UBS) has found a widespread desire for the Bible and Children's Bibles in both official languages. Thousands are being distributed, and a new Belarusian New Testament has been commissioned in cooperation with the Orthodox Church.
b) Christian literature needs to be made more available. CLC has a presence in the country, but more solid evangelistic and teaching material needs to be translated into Belarusian and then distributed throughout the country.
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