08/25/2020, 08.27
BELARUS-RUSSIA
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Archbishop Kondrusiewicz meets a minister; Lukashenko threatens the churches

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The Metropolitan of Minsk asked for clarification on missing people and that priests can meet with prisoners. “We are not here to judge, but to call all those who commit crimes to conversion”. President Lukashenko: "My dear priests, moderate yourselves and mind your own business". Catholic and Orthodox priests lead peaceful demonstrations. Lukashenko is no longer the "the people’s president".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - After several denials, it has been officially confirmed: last August 21 a meeting was held between Yuri Karaev, Belarusian Interior Minister, and the head of the country's Catholics, Metropolitan Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz (photo 1).

The meeting had been requested by the archbishop to assess the prospects for a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the president and the opposition.

Archbishop Kondrusiewicz reminded the minister of the unsustainability of violent repression, implemented by the local militia, denouncing at the same time the presence of no less violent provocateurs in various demonstrations. He also proposed the formation of a mixed commission, which would carry out checks on the conditions of arrest and detention of people. The state-owned television channel ONT said the parties reached an agreement on the formation of such a commission.

On the official website of the Belarusian Catholic Church it is specified that Kondrusiewicz has placed the emphasis mainly on the protection of "the weakest and the defenceless", and that in this difficult situation he intends to "be the spokesperson for those who are deprived of the possibility of speaking out".

With regards the Metropolitan's requests for clarification on the fate of those who have disappeared without a trace, whose lists are published by various press organs, the minister replied that "there are no longer any of these", and that only 40 identified people remain under arrest.

The prelate also asked that priests be given the opportunity to visit the prisoners, and the minister promised to take care of the matter. "We are not here to judge, but to call all those who commit crimes to conversion, and all others to forgiveness and mercy," Archbishop Kondrusiewicz recalled.

President Aleksandr Lukashenko showed much less willingness by thundering against the Churches during his meeting in Grodno last Saturday 22 August: “I am surprised by the positions of our religious confessions. My dear priests, moderate yourselves and mind your own business. In the churches one must only go to pray: The Orthodox and Catholic churches are not made for politics”.

Then he added: "Do not become the lap dogs of those who foment division, many of you will have to be ashamed of the positions taken in these days, and the State will not stand by and watch with indifference". Catholic priests, and also several Orthodox ministers, continue to lead peaceful protest marches.

On the evening of August 23, Lukashenko wanted to give a further demonstration of his intentions, landing near the Minsk Independence Palace in war gear, with a bulletproof vest, weapons in his belt and an automatic rifle in his hand (photo 2). The video of the president-warrior getting off the helicopter was broadcast for propaganda purposes on Telegram channels close to the presidency, just as another absolutely peaceful mass demonstration was taking place in the capital, the "March for a new Belarus" which gathered between 100 and 250 thousand people (photo 3), heading right towards the Palace of Independence of Belarus. More than a show of strength, Lukashenko's image appeared as that of a dictator in panic, definitively accomplishing the "desacralization" of the old rhetoric of "people's president" cultivated for over a quarter of a century.

The demonstrators, moreover, are not pushing for a real coup d'etat, but for "honest elections" to be held as soon as possible; Sergej Tikhanovskij (photo 4), the blogger husband of the "defeated" and exiled candidate Svetlana, who had been put in prison for having put forward his candidacy for president, has declared that he is willing to stand again if the elections can be re-run in conditions of normal social harmony, therefore after Lukashenko’s withdrawal.

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