Statement of the Christian Vision Working Group of the Coordination Council Regarding the Hunger Strike of Christian Intellectual Uladzimir Matskevich

Belarusian inter-Christian association, created during peaceful protests of 2020.
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Founding statement of the «Christian Vision» Working Group.
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8 February 2020

A philosopher, methodologist, intellectual, creator of the Flying University, and Christian-Reformed Christian, Uladzimir Matskevich, has been held in custody in a pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) no. 1 in Minsk for more than six months. He was detained on 4 August 2021 and charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code (Organizing actions that grossly violate public order). The date of the trial has still not been set and the terms of the 65-year-old philosopher’s detention have been repeatedly extended.

On 4 February 2022, after another extension of the detention period, Matskevich felt the need to take extreme measures: he has gone on a hunger strike demanding for the date of the trial to be finally set, the preventive measure to be changed, and the permit to receive a visit from a Protestant pastor granted.

This is not his first hunger. In 2006, Matskevich inspired and took part in the fasting and hunger strike of the New Life Full Gospel Church community. This radical way of protesting against the persecution was the last opportunity to protect the church building ‑ converted by the community from a cowshed ‑ from being confiscated by the authorities. As a result of the hunger strike and thanks to a broad campaign of Christian and civil solidarity, the church community managed to defend the building.

Matskevich has been an active figure in Belarusian Christianity since 2000. Faith has an important role in his personal and social life. Being an adherent of the reformed tradition of Protestantism, Matskevich authored an article about its founder, John Calvin, for the Newest Philosophical Dictionary. Christianity, Christian principles and the organisation of society on Christian foundations are among the central themes of his philosophical works, journalism, and public speeches. He is the author of the Doctrine of Belarusian Conservatism, which was partially adopted by the organising committee of the Belarusian Christian Democracy party for its ideological basis.

For Matskevich, intellectual and Christian, freedom of conscience has always been one of the key and inalienable human rights. From 2002 to 2006, he participated in the civil initiative, For Free Belief, which opposed the adoption of a revised repressive version of the legislation On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations (2002) and advocated for freedom of religion in Belarus.

We support Uladzimir  Matskevich’s demands made during his hunger strike. We call on the Belarusian and world Christian community, especially the laity, theologians, and leaders of the Reformed Churches, to solidarity with the persecuted intellectual and believer.

We express our deep concern about Matskevich’s physical and spiritual state and demand strict enforcement of his constitutional and universal right to freedom of religion or belief. This includes the right to access the religious literature he needs, in the first place ‑ the Holy Scriptures, and the opportunity to be visited by the pastor for providing him with spiritual assistance.

Based on paragraph 117 of the Rules of the Internal Order of Pre-trial Detention Centres of the Penitentiary System of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, approved by the Decree no. 3 of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Belarus on 13 January 2004, we ask for a pastor of a Protestant church be allowed to offer spiritual assistance to Matskevich Uladzimir Uladzimiravich (born 1956), the detainee in a pre-trial detention centre (SIZO) no. 1, no later than 13 February 2022.