Belarus has had a turbulent year, and not only as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, there was also political turmoil in Belarus. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets against President Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime following his re-election. During the mass protests, many demonstrators were brutally suppressed by security forces. There were deaths and injuries; many were imprisoned. The Church also raised its voice against the brutal crackdown. Despite the difficult situation, ACN managed to continue its aid to the Church in Belarus last year.
After the opposition filed a petition with the Supreme Court to annul the presidential election, mass demonstrations took place in Minsk. These were directed against the authoritarian rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, who had been re-elected with 80% of the vote after 26 years in office. The opposition and a majority of the population in Belarus assume that the government deliberately falsified the election results. Following the violent police action against peaceful demonstrators, the Church voiced criticism of the abuses.
Church representatives were not spared either. At the end of August, the Chairman of the Conference of Catholic Bishops’, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, who had strongly criticised the heavy-handed government response, was refused re-entry to Belarus after a business trip without a stated reason, although he has Belarusian citizenship. He was only allowed to re-enter on Christmas Eve.
We pray for a positive solution to this unprecedented socio-political crisis.Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz
On 18 August, a common prayer for peace among all religious communities took place in Minsk due to the political crisis. In September, prayers were then made in all the churches of the country to “stop the conflict from getting worse and to find a solution as soon as possible.” We are pleased that despite the pandemic and political unrest in Minsk and Grodno, 34 seminarians and their instructors were able to start the new academic year “full of optimism” with the help of ACN.
In addition, we granted emergency aid to priests in several dioceses due to the coronavirus crisis, which was used to order necessary protective material and to compensate for lost income through donations. We were also able to support several parishes and religious communities in procuring urgently needed vehicles for pastoral care.