THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH IS THE MAIN SOURCE OF INTERRELIGIOUS TENSION IN BELARUS – STATEMENT OF BNR RADA
The Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic condemns the interference of the Russian Orthodox Church in the activities of other religious communities of Belarus, including the attempts of the Russian Orthodox Church to prevent the creation of the Apostolic Administration for Catholics of the Byzantine rite in Belarus.
Belarus (the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) has traditionally been a place of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence of different religious communities: the Greek-Catholic majority, as well as the Roman-Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant minorities, as well as non-Christian minorities, primarily represented by Muslims and Jews who found refuge in Belarus after exile from other countries. Tolerance and respect for diversity were, are, and will remain among the main values for the Belarusian people.
The main source of inter-religious tension in Belarus is the Russian Orthodox Church, forcibly imposed on Belarusians in the first half of the 19th century, and in its current form shaped in the Stalinist USSR in 1943 and represented today by a fully Russian-controlled exarchate under the false name “Belarusian Orthodox Church”. During its activity on the territory of Belarus, this organization showed itself primarily not as a church, but as a Russian colonial institution, an instrument of Russification and pressure on traditional Belarusian Christian churches, to which the Russian Orthodox Church itself does not belong. During the Soviet era, the Russian Orthodox Church was an instrument in the hands of the totalitarian Soviet regime, which carried out a policy of ethnocide of Belarusians and political terror against any dissidents. Many ROC hierarchs were part of the KGB, a criminal organisation, and remain agents of the secret political police of the authoritarian regimes of Lukashenka and Russia’s Putin.
In modern Belarus, the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the ideological pillars of A. Lukashenka’s regime and enjoys unjustified privileges from the authoritarian state, while many other Belarusian Christian churches suffer discrimination, confiscation of property and repression against priests. Belarusian autocephalous Orthodoxy, which is a true continuation of local Orthodox traditions in Belarusian lands from the Middle Ages and which for many years was and remains one of the spiritual supports of many Belarusians in exile, is forced to exist in Belarus under conditions of particularly severe persecution.
Contrary to the fundamentals of Christian teaching, the so-called “Belarusian Orthodox Church” does not condemn the violence, murders and torture for which Lukashenka’s regime is responsible. On the contrary, priests and activists who stand on honest Christian – and especially on democratic and pro-Belarusian – positions are systematically and purposefully forced to leave the ranks of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. For decades, the Russian Orthodox Church has been indoctrinating Orthodox Belarusians in the spirit of Russian nationalism and the so-called “Russian world”.
The Russian Orthodox Church most eloquently manifested its essence in the context of the current war between Russia and Ukraine. The leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and its Belarusian Exarchate openly supports Russian military aggression and blesses Russian invaders who commit war crimes on the territory of Ukraine. The structures of the so-called “Belarusian Orthodox Church” were seen collecting material aid for the Russian aggressors.
The activities of the Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church should be the subject of close investigation by law enforcement and constitutional order bodies in the future democratic Belarus. The so-called “Belarusian Orthodox Church” of the Moscow Patriarchate is responsible for promoting extremist anti-state ideology, supporting Russian aggression in Ukraine and supporting the dictatorial regime in Belarus.
Traditional Belarusian churches of the Eastern rite, including the Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church and the Belarusian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, have the full right to independently determine their internal organisational structure, and should enjoy all the support of the future democratic Belarusian state as institutions of historical and spiritual value.