About a hundred protesters took refuge in the religious building. For Archbishop Kondrusiewicz, the police action is “inadequate and contradictory” and constitutes an attack against religious freedom. It cannot lead to reconciliation.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Belarus Special Purpose Police Detachment[*] yesterday blocked access to the Red Church,[†] a Catholic church located in central Minsk where about a hundred protesters had found refuge after being chased by police.
Metropolitan Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, head of the Catholic Church in Belarus, slammed the attempt to deny the right of sanctuary and limit the rights of believers.
The prelate said that police "are by definition called to protect the fundamental freedoms of people, including religious freedom, not hinder them.”
In a statement posted on the website of the Catholic Church in Belarus, the prelate described the police action as "inadequate and contradictory", and called for an investigation into the incident, demanding that perpetrators be punished in accordance with the law.
The communiqué goes on to say: “At a time when the Catholic Church is working with all its power for reconciliation and dialogue, these and similar actions by law enforcement do not help ease tensions in favour of a speedy restoration of peace and harmony in Belarusian society and the resolution of a political conflict never seen before in our country.”
The archbishop was joined by Bishop Yury Kasabutski, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Minsk-Mohilev, who, in a statement posted on catholic.by, said: “The ban on entering and leaving the church contradicts people’s right to freedom of conscience and religion, guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus; it offends the feelings of believers and oversteps the limits of the laws of men and God.”
Last night, the police dispersed thousands of protesters in Minsk’s Independence Square. About a hundred fled to the Red Church where some worshippers were celebrating Vespers.
The Special Police blocked the entrances for hours, and after opening the doors arrested several people coming out of the church.
[*] AMAP (Belarusian: Атрад міліцыі асобага прызначэння, i.e. Special Purpose Police Detachment) or OMON (Russian: Отряд милиции особого назначения, i.e. Special Police Detachment).
[†] Чырвоны касцёл, transl. Čyrvony kasciol.