Statement of the Christian Vision Working Group of the Coordination Council of Belarus on the Humanitarian Crisis: Who Is My Neighbor?

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16 November 2021

The Christian Vision Working Group of the Coordination Council of Belarus is deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis taking place in Belarus on account of the mass gathering of foreign citizens, including those from conflict zones, on the Belarusian-Polish border organised by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko; and the consequences it may have both for the people affected by the crises, and for the situation in Belarus as such.

Firstly, we insist that the regime of Alexander Lukashenko bears full responsibility for the current critical situation: officials of all levels, diplomatic departments, law enforcement agencies, state companies and mass propaganda media outlets that participated in organising the transportation of people to Belarus, supported their intentions to violate the state border, directed their movement to the border and prevented from returning from the border area, as well as encouraged to carry out violent actions both against the border guards of the Republic of Poland and aimed at destroying the border infrastructure.

We are strongly convinced that a humanitarian crisis on the EU-Belarus border would have not been possible if the Belarusian authorities had adhered to their legal obligations to respect human rights and international obligations towards their own citizens, as well as those seeking asylum in Belarus or abroad.

The regime organised a humanitarian crisis in order to solve its own crisis of legitimacy as a consequence of unconstitutional power grab and its retention, as well as unprecedented lawlessness, terror and human rights violations deployed against peaceful Belarusian citizens. In response to the brutal and illegal actions of the Belarusian authorities posing a threat to both the Belarusian people and the security of the entire European region, the European Union had to impose political and economic sanctions against the organisations, businesses and persons responsible for falsifying the results of the 2020 presidential elections, suppression of democratic opposition and independent media, and violence against civilians. In this context, migrants’ human dignity, life, destinies, tragedies and the hopes for a better and safer life in the European Union are used by the regime as a lever of influence on European governments and the institutions of the European Union. The purpose of the escalation of the conflict in the border area is destabilisation of the European Union.

Consequently, these people, including women and children, remain in the Belarusian border area in harsh weather conditions dangerous to their health and life. They are deprived of access to the necessary basics, to medical and legal assistance. The Belarusian regime has resorted to terrorist methods of interaction with the European Union, it is using migrants as hostages.

We consider unacceptable any instrumentalisation of people, especially those in a vulnerable position, who leave their countries aiming for a better life and a safer future, but who often become victims of fraudsters and manipulators pursuing their own selfish goals, putting human life and well-being at nothing.

Secondly, we see our basis in the enduring value of every human person and the human dignity granted by God. Christianity rests on the personality and teachings of Jesus Christ cannot ignore the extreme need of a person; in every person in need of help it sees a neighbour to whom this help should be provided even if this difficult life situation is the result of the person’s own mistakes. The image of the merciful Samaritan who assisted a robbed and beaten stranger on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:25-37) is one of the key and most inspiring images in the Scripture.

Therefore, we highly value the work of the “good Samaritans” on both sides of the border: NGOs, churches, volunteers and all people of good will — providing humanitarian aid, medical and legal support to migrants. We especially admire the efforts of Belarusian human rights workers and humanitarian organisations, which face opposition from the regime while continuing their wonderful work. We are alarmed by the fate of the most vulnerable people among migrants — women and children — who are now sandwiched between the armed forces of the two states. They are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. International observers, human rights workers, lawyers, doctors and independent journalists should have guaranteed access to them.

Thirdly, we believe that the countries of the European Union must unswervingly abide by their international obligations and protect human rights, including the right to asylum and to seek asylum. All people seeking protection and asylum in the European Union must be admitted to a fair procedure for obtaining asylum. International law prohibits forcibly expelling people from the territory of a state when they seek asylum.

We express our gratitude to the European countries for the support they provide to the Belarusian democratic movement, for the solidarity and assistance to the Belarusians who have suffered from persecution, as well as for the measures aimed at ending the repressions, violence and lawlessness in Belarus.

In the situation of the current humanitarian crisis, we call on the European countries to approach its resolution in a comprehensive manner eliminating its root cause. Due to the legal default in Belarus, any person, be it a citizen of the country or a person seeking asylum, is under the threat of his/her human dignity being humiliated, of kidnapping and/or illegal detention, of cruel treatment up to torture and death. The state authorities’ neglect of protective measures in the context of the Covid pandemic, obstruction of access to internationally approved vaccines, repressions against NGOs and human rights workers, lawyers and journalists — all this has already turned Belarus into a zone of risk and instability in the centre of Europe; and this situation is getting worse.

Fourthly, we call the Belarusian civil society to solidarity with the victims of the current humanitarian crisis. With deep regret we admit a side effect of the artificially created refugee crisis on Belarusian society: xenophobia and negative emotional reactions towards refugees and migrants are on the increase. This leads to the crumbling of the miracle of solidarity and universal support in the face of a common danger that happened to Belarusians in connection with the events of the 2020 elections. Migrants at the border, political prisoners in prisons, doctors in the Covid-only corridors of Belarusian hospitals — they are all hostages of the irresponsible and inhuman policies of the illegal Lukashenko’s regime.

Fifthly, we condemn any acts of violence, provocations and incitement to violence, as well as criminal inaction in relation to acts of violence. Deliberate distortion and concealment of facts, misinformation, and the use of hate speech are also unacceptable.

Finally, the Biblical value system assumes both active compassion for strangers in need and protection of vulnerable people, and uncompromising adherence to truth and justice: “For the Lord your God is […] the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing”(Deut. 10:17-18). Therefore, the Christian Vision Group hopes that compassion for people in need and the restoration of justice will be the basis for resolving the migration crisis on the border of the European Union and Belarus, as well as the political crisis in Belarus. 

One cannot just be a passive observer because in them, as Pope Francis notes in his Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, the “robbers” find “secret allies” (§75). We ask ourselves theOne cannot just be a passive observer because in them, as Pope Francis notes in his Encyclical Fratelli Tutti, the “robbers” find “secret allies” (§75). We ask ourselves the question: who is my neighbour? In reality, there is no choice! There can be no choice in expressing sympathy towards either the deceived, or robbed, or beaten, or imprisoned, or dismissed, or persecuted, or deprived of justice. The choice is only about which side you are on: the victim’s side or the one of those who deceive, rob, beat, imprison unfairly, take a job away and persecute them. And this choice poses before us the question: who are we?

The Christian Vision