On August 25th, the head of the Belarus Orthodox Church (a part of the Russian Orthodox Church) changed. This is no coincidence and it is likely part of the push towards the Ukrainian-style autocephaly that’s being used as a political tool by the opposition against President Alexander Lukashenko.
The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the resignation of the head of the Belarusian Exarchate, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavsky Pavel.
“The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church accepted the petition of the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Metropolitan of Minsk and Zaslavl Pavel, for his dismissal … and expressed gratitude to him for the work incurred,” said Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media.
Bishop of Borisov and Maryingor Benjamin was appointed as the new Patriarchal Exarch in Belarus.
Metropolitan Pavel, who previously held the post, was sent with gratitude to serve in the Kuban.
Metropolitan Pavel earlier called on President Alexander Lukashenko to stop violence against protesters, and also visited the victims of the protests in hospitals.
When visiting the victims, the Metropolitan “expressed hope for a fair investigation of the crimes committed during the recent protest actions,” the official website of the Belarusian Orthodox Church reports.
Earlier, at a rally in Grodno, Lukashenko said that priests of different confessions should not interfere in Belarusian politics – he called on them “to settle down and do their own thing,” stressing that “churches and churches are not for politics.”
Regardless, just as in the past, also in the present, the church is used as a political actor to bring about change or preserve the status quo, and attempts at both appear to be taking place in Belarus right now, in one way or another.
After all, the Belarusian Exarch expressed hope that reported violence would stop, and he was then replaced, otherwise his calls for peace would have likely continued.
Meanwhile, the Telegram channel operated by opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s HQ claimed that Latvia will allocate 150,000 euros to support of ‘civil society’ and ‘independent media’ in Belarus.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia directed the following:
- 52,800 euros – for legal assistance to persons affected by human rights violations in Belarus after the presidential elections;
- 45,500 euros – for psychological, practical, legal and medical assistance, as well as training of psychologists;
- 51,700 euros – for the development of independent media.
Finally, the same channel reported a statement by Minister of State for European Affairs. Clément Beaune that sanctions have been imposed, targeting against Alexander Lukashenko and others around him, and the pressure would continue until a democratic transition takes place.
« Il y a des sanctions qui ont été prises, ciblées envers les dirigeants et nous continuons à mettre la pression pour assurer une transition démocratique le plus rapidement possible.»
💬 @CBeaune Secrétaire d’Etat, affaires européennes#Les4v pic.twitter.com/ZrgE3cFTgQ
— Caroline Roux (@Caroline_Roux) August 24, 2020
“We saw this strange and frightening performance by Lukashenko, who threatened his people,” the diplomat said. In his opinion, the current actions of the Belarusian authorities against citizens can already be considered repressions.
He referred to the situation in which Lukashenko came out of his presidential airplane with a bulletproof vest and an assault rifle, in a ridiculous fiasco.
Beaune recalled that European countries support the inhabitants of Belarus, and stressed that the sanctions are directed against the authorities, not the population. The diplomat promised to continue to put pressure on Minsk to “ensure the transition to democracy.”
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