12/23/2020, 09.06
BELARUS - RUSSIA
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Lukashenko clamps down on churches and opposition

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The president demands that "all those who disturb the peaceful coexistence of our people and work to the detriment of our state" be punished "in the most severe manner", even "in the context of religious communities".  The "hammer of the heretics" is Aleksandr Rumak, the new head of the department for religions and nationalities.  The Christmas appeal for peace by the Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish authorities.  Kondrusiewicz's televised message cancelled.

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In a masterful "double-handed" move, Belarusian President Lukashenko granted the return of the Catholic Archbishop of Minsk from exile while at the same time, on December 21, issuing a decree against all forms of religious dissent against him. 

THe decree obliges the new head of the department for religions and nationalities, Aleksandr Rumak (photo 2), "to punish in the most severe way all those who disturb the peaceful coexistence of our people and work to the detriment of our state".  According to the president, "these are not many, but we must take them and show them, even within religious communities".  The personalities to "punish and condemn" include Catholic personalities such as Kondrusiewicz, exiled to Poland until yesterday (photo 3), and the former Orthodox Metropolitan Pavel (Ponomarev, photo 4), removed by the very top of the Moscow patriarchate  and replaced by the more loyal Venjamin (Tupeko).

The appointment of Aleksandr Rumak to the role of the new "hammer of the heretics" of Belarus was accompanied by new invectives by Lukashenko against "the leaders of religious denominations who behave in an anti-state way".  Rumak replaces Leonid Guljako, who had been in office since 2006, considered too "soft".  “See what happens in the country” - Lukashenko insisted - “to be honest: some religious leaders have shown that they are against the state, unlike simple faithful, who have no responsibility in this case.  There are only some hierarchs, who did not behave well, let's say they were wrong, but we cannot pretend not to see the problems and defects, we must defend ourselves”.

The president invited Rumak to “check where we, the state, have not done enough;  we do not meddle in matters of faith, I underline this for the umpteenth time, we do not meddle in people's beliefs, but we must defend our state, all believers live in the Belarusian state.  They are our believers, even Catholics and Orthodox, and all the leaders of religious denominations also live in our state.  I will say more, as I have always insisted, all social organizations, including religious ones, also act on the territory of our State ”. 

The President continued saying Rumak was chosen for his ability to keep nationalities and religions in line, based on his experience: A former professor of history, until yesterday he was deputy minister of labor and "social defense", and  he will have to act "in close contact with the president's administration, so as not to destroy what we have always been proud of, namely interfaith peace".

Meanwhile, in view of the Christmas holidays, the representatives of the four major religious confessions of the country (Orthodox, Catholics, Muslims and Jews) have signed an appeal in favor of peace in the country, published by the Telegram channel Pul Pervogo, close to the press room of the  President Lukashenko.  The text bears the signature of Metropolitan Venjamin, the apostolic nuncio Ante Jozic, the president of the union of Muslims, Mufti Abu-Bekir Shabanovich and the chief rabbi Doich Shneer Zalman.  It states that “the path of peace in our country has been long, through suffering and trials, the tragedies of war and the chaos of conflicts… our ancestors built churches on our streets to defend the homeland.  (...) Among us, who are so different, there is a lot in common that can help us see in people hostile or in conflict with us not an enemy, but our neighbor".

The Nasha Niva agency has released the news that this year the Christmas greeting of the Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz will not be broadcast on the first television channel, as was tradition in previous years.  It will be replaced by an intervention by the Orthodox Metropolitan Venjamin in honor of the saint of the day according to the Orthodox calendar, St. Spiridon bishop of Trimufitskij.  The spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Minsk announced that Kondrusiewicz's greeting will be recorded in Poland, and transmitted by the catholic.by portal.  On television, after Venjamin’s speech, Pope Francis’s Christmas Mass will be broadcast.  Metropolitan Venjamin also asked everyone to pray for the health of his historic predecessor, the 85-year-old Metropolitan Filaret (Vakhromeev), hospitalized in recent days with the coronavirus infection.

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