Lukashenko’s regime persecutes Religion, arrests priests

Pavel Latushka @PavelLatushka

Christian Vision reported that on May 8th, Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus arrested two Catholic priests, Andrzej Yukhnevich and Pavel Lemekh. They were accused of “sabotage activities” and detained, but the reasons for their detention remain unknown. This is just one of the many examples of how the regime, which faces rising discomfort from citizens, increasingly targets priests and treats them as “extremists.”

Roman Catholics make up 6% of the total population in Belarus, while the majority (53%) belong to the Moscow-controlled Belarusian Orthodox Church. The situation regarding religious freedom in Belarus is deteriorating after the mass protests against the fraudulent 2020 election. 

During these years, the regime has transformed the country into a totalitarian state, and the government perceives any activities independent of its control as a threat to its existence. The government has banned or shut down independent media, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and opposition political parties, criminalising participation in these organisations.

The regime regularly imprisons, denies medical care to prisoners, tortures, and kills pro-democracy protesters, opposition politicians, journalists, and human rights activists. 

Religious communities are persecuted as well. In 2023, Belarus’ parliament considered adopting a new “law” to impose stricter requirements on religious communities prohibiting them from engaging in political activities. 

Orthodox priests were forced to leave Belarus, and they established the Belarusian Orthodox community of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. However, Catholic priests are subjected to the most severe and consistent repression. Since 2020, many Catholics have been arrested and persecuted, and some priests have had to flee Belarus to avoid persecution by the regime.

This is because Catholic priests usually call for a stop to violence, arrests, and repression. Additionally, the government spreads disinformation and false accusations against the Catholic Church, depicting it as a Nazi-inspired organisation. In 2021, for example, a pro-government newspaper published an article about Catholic priests accompanied by a cartoon showing three priests, two with crosses and one with a swastika. 

To mention only a few cases of persecution of priests, in May 2022, the regime heavily fined two Catholic priests for their opposition to the war, informed Belarusian democratic opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. On November 2023, Christian Vision informed that within one week, two Catholic priests were detained. 

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