The Belarus state will always be committed to interfaith peace in Belarus, it will not give it up to anyone, President Alexander Lukashenko said at a meeting with Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavsky Benjamin, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.
“We will not give the interfaith world that we have developed to anyone. We will always be committed to it,” Lukashenko said. He was quoted by the state agency BelTA.
He added that Belarus greatly appreciates the confessional world that has been formed in a quarter of a century.
“Maybe it sounds immodest, but I am proud of it that it happened in the years when I had to serve our country. I really appreciate it, it is deeply personal,” Lukashenko admitted.
According to BelTA, 25 religious denominations are registered in Belarus.
As of the beginning of the year, there are 3,563 religious organizations operating in the country, including 3,389 communities and 174 organizations of general confessional significance (religious associations, monasteries, missions, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, and theological educational institutions).
The President also touched upon the topic of the pandemic. He noted that the consequences of the spread of coronavirus infection have seriously affected the economy of both the state and the church.
“The parishes have become a little poorer, because fewer people come, although we have never closed churches and will not close them, because any trouble – go and pray that the Lord will help. What does it mean to close churches in trouble? Yes, we did not close churches during the war. Therefore, we will never do this. This is the business of every person: he wants to pray, let him go and pray – alone, together, with his family. In this regard, we are ready to enter the situation, we need to work out this issue in the government – if the church needs to be supported in these difficult times must be supported,” summed up Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko appears to have noticed what transpired in Ukraine and is approaching the church in order to preserve the status quo, he also evidently knows the importance of an effective propaganda campaign.
Protests continued in Belarus on November 1st.
They faced “repression” according to media reports.
It was the 13th Sunday in a row that anti-government protesters gathered since Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko won a “contested election.”
The opposition has rejected the outcome as fraudulent and considers its leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to be the actual winner of the vote.
Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva reported that tens of thousands of people swept through the capital, Minsk, in the most recent protest, while Human rights group Visana put the figure at 20,000.
Photo and video footage shared on the messaging app Telegram showed streets lined with uniformed people in riot gear facing protesters.
Visana said more than 240 detentions took place, including of journalists on the scene.
Ahead of the march, security forces had already cordoned off several central squares, closed several metro stations and in some cases, mobile internet disruption was reported.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signaled that he was ready to crack down on demonstrators.
“It’s enough now. We will not back down,” Lukashenko said.
“If someone touches a member of the military, they must leave at least without their hands,” he added in a sign of support to security forces.
The opposition, in response, named November 1st’s protests “March against terror” and claimed that Lukashenko has “declared war on his own people.”
The opposition has been actively exploiting the recent statement of the Belarusian president in which he called on security forces to mutilate rioters.
“From now on, we are not taking anyone prisoner. If someone touches a soldier, he must leave at least without hands. I say this publicly so that everyone understands our determination. Further – everything. We have nowhere to retreat, and we are not going to retreat,” he said.
The attitude of Lukashenko demonstrates that he is not going to surrender his power to the Western pressure at any cost. At the same time, the entire situation in Belarus is a result of his own actions. For years, the government of Lukashenko has been intentionally instigating anti-Russian sentiments and allowing Western-affiliated media and organizations to operate in the country. The anti-Russian local nationalist propaganda has become an unofficial ideology of the government. Church and pseudo-church organizations that were standing against the Russian Orthodox Church also received support. The Ukraine-like project of the so-called ‘independent’ Orthodox Church of Belarus that should take the place of the canonical Russian Orthodox Church on this territory also appeared in the public narrative.
By these moves, Minsk was seeking to gain additional ‘independence’ from Moscow despite the fact that the Belarussian economic exists only thanks to direct and indirect donations from Russia. The Belarussian local nationalist propaganda was also used to sabotage the Russian-Belarusian integration projects that were agreed a long time ago. Nonetheless, Lukashenko and his inner circle saw the integration with Russia as a threat to their own political and economic power as the leadership of Belarus. Together with the increasing flirting with the Euro-Atlantic establishment (under empty hopes to get accepted to the ‘democratic world’ as an equal partner), this created the current instable situation in Belarus.
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