Statement of the Coordination Council “Christian Vision” Working Group
11 September 2020
The Coordination Council “Christian Vision” Working Group is an informal, interconfessional group of several Coordination Council members. It was established on 9 September to coordinate the joint activities of Christians to achieve the Council’s main aim:
to resolve the political crisis and achieve a consensus in society based on the Constitution.
It is necessary to restore peace, the rule of law, and democracy in the country. This requires respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms and the dignity of everyone.
To achieve this goal it is therefore necessary:
1. To immediately end violence and political persecution by the authorities. To in accordance with the law conduct an investigation of the violence and political persecution;
2. To release all political prisoners, ensure cancellation of the illegal court orders, and provide compensation payments to all victims of illegal persecution.
3. To declare as null and void the election that took place on 9th August 2020, and to conduct a new election in accordance with the international standards. New members should be appointed to all election commissions, including the Central Election Commission.
Also, the Coordination Council “Christian Vision” Working Group wants to draw attention to numerous violations of citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of religion or belief, as well as the politically motivated persecution of religious leaders and organisations.
In particular, we want to note that there is:
— direct pressure from government agencies directed against priests and employees of religious organisations of the Belarusian Orthodox Church who posted on their social networks the picture “Orthodox are against falsifications, humiliation and pressure on individuals”, as well as statements and posts in support of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz who has been banned from entering his own country Belarus;
— indirect pressure from government agencies exerted through the church leadership on priests and employees of religious organisations of the Belarusian Orthodox Church – because they posted on their social networks a picture “Orthodox are against falsifications, humiliation and pressure on individuals” and other statements in which they oppose the falsification of the presidential election, violence against civilians by law enforcement agencies, and violation of human rights and freedoms;
— the government creating obstacles for clergy continuing their religious activities of clergymen. In one example, Catholic priest Fr Jerzy Wilk on 4 September had state permission for religious activities in his parish (St. Michael the Archangel in the village of Varapaeva, Pastavy District, Vitebsk Region) withdrawn;
— the government creating obstacles for the activities of the religious communities. For example, blockade by police of the doors of the Catholic Church of Saints Simon and Helena (known as the Red Church) on 26 August. On 31 August the locks of this church were changed by the authorities without the permission of the parish;
— an illegal ban on entry into Belarus on 31 August of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, a Belarusian citizen and the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus. This violates Belarus’ international obligations (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 12 “Freedom of Movement”), Constitution (Article 30 — Citizens … shall have the right … to leave it [Belarus] and to return to it without hindrance”), and the Law of the Republic of Belarus No. 49-3 of 20 September 2009 “On the procedure for leaving and entry into the Republic of Belarus by the citizens of the Republic of Belarus”, Article 3). This ban is also an act of oppression against both a religious leader individually and a religious community as a whole.
The Coordination Council “Christian Vision” Working Group express our solidarity with all victims of political persecution in our country. We appeal to the authorities for the immediate end of violence, and the beginning of a dialogue with the civil society.
We are confident that the Churches can make a positive contribution to overcoming our country’s crisis and facilitating such a dialogue between civil society and the authorities.
The “Christian Vision” Group will monitor all cases of political persecution related to impermissible restrictions restriction of freedom of religion and belief. The Group will also inform the international community of such cases.
We ask the international Christian community and the Churches to also express their solidarity with the Belarusian people.