By BosNewsLife News Center in Budapest
MINSK/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife) -- Belarus has banned a Christian music festival, initiated by Catholics, minutes before it was due to begin, a religious rights group said Thursday, September 25.
Forum 18 said organisers had obtained written state permission for the festival, but minutes before the first concert was to begin, authorities banned the event.
Local Ideology Department head Lyudmila Gornak reportedly said â€œmistakesâ€ were made by organizers, but declined to go into details.
Well known local Christian bands, including 'Salvation' were due to perform at the festival. The incident is the latest in a series of difficulties faced by active Christians in the former Soviet republic.
Yet, during a recent visit to Belarus, Vatican Cardinal, Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, reportedly thanked Belarus on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI "for the religious liberty that Belarus enjoys," and praised the 2002 Religion Law as "a good law."
However, Belarusian Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant human rights defenders have reportedly collected a 50,000 signatures petition against the Law saying there are serious human rights concerns.
The European Parliament already passed a resolution saying the 2002 Law "contravenes international principles of religious freedom and human rights...,â€ Forum 18 recalled. The United States has criticized President Alexander Lukashenko, calling Belarus under his leadership "Europe's last dictatorship."
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