United in Prayer for Belarus - Catholic and Orthodox Leaders Urge Government to End Crackdown and Call for Prayer

Vatican News release: Church leaders unite in prayer for Belarus as protests grow
Catholic and Orthodox Church leaders call for prayers for the people of Belarus, and urge the government to end a crackdown on opposition supporters.
By Stefan J. Bos

Justice and Peace Europe, a key alliance promoting justice, peace, and respect for human dignity, has expressed concern about reports of mistreatment of opposition supporters in Belarus.

The Executive Committee of the Catholic organization, which also wants to raise awareness about the Catholic social doctrine, says it denounces "any form of violence and strongly condemns the use of torture by Belarusian authorities against protestors."

Its letter comes amid reports that some 7,000 people have been detained since a fresh wave of protests erupted following the disputed August 9 presidential poll.

Officials claim long-time President Alexander Lukashenko won the ballot with 80 percent of the vote. But demonstrators have their doubts.

In the letter, Justice and Peace Europe also calls for the immediate release of all who "have been arrested without any justification."

Human rights
It urges the Belarusian authorities to "fully respect human rights, including the right to life, the prohibition of torture, the freedom of assembly, media and expression, and to adhere to democratic principles."

The organization joins the European Union in showing solidarity, and writes that it expresses support for EU efforts to take sanctions against individuals responsible for what it calls "grave human rights abuses."

It also supports the Catholic Bishops of Belarus in their appeal for seeking the truth based on a peaceful and inclusive dialogue between Belarusian political leadership and broader society to avoid further violence.

That dialogue could include Belarusian opposition leader and former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is currently in exile in Lithuania.

She said in a video message that she was preparing to be interim president. "I'm ready to take responsibility and act as a national leader during this period. So that the country can calm down and begin a normal rhythm, and we will be able to release all political prisoners and prepare the legislative framework and necessary conditions to organize new presidential elections," Tikhanovskaya stressed.

"Criminal orders"
She also urged law enforcement agencies "not to execute criminal orders any longer" and said that if they "come over to the side of the people," they will be "forgiven and supported" by Belarusian people."

Amid the turmoil, Justice and Peace Europe has invited all Christians to unite in saying the Lord's Prayer for the Belarusian people on Tuesday, August 18, 2020, at 18:00 Central European Summer Time so that "truth, justice and peace may prevail."

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has also prayed for peace in the troubled nation. And his Church has demanded an end to the ongoing clashes.

Despite the crackdown, massive protests and strikes against the president and for prisoners' release have continued.

On Monday, Lukashenko was challenged by workers in a tractor factory.

He later suggested he was prepared to hold new elections after a constitutional referendum. Europe's security organization OECD has proposed mediation and EU foreign ministers were due to discuss the mounting tensions in Belarus on Wednesday.
FULL TEXT Source: VaticanNews.va