On 6 August Belarusian Protestants began officially celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Francišak Skaryna’s translation of the Bible into an archaic church-Slavonic language, which can be seen as a proto-Belarusian.
I happened to attend one Minsk-based congregation on that raining day. Despite the weather, people were in truly festive moods.
I am taking hot water from samovar on the Hrodna-Minsk train
Yesterday I crossed the Poland-Belarus border, heading towards Hrodna and then Minsk. While I still keep bad memories of my last year trip, which included the issues with visa, then with a plane, and, eventually, a long trip by train, this time it went smooth.
Passport and luggage control went smoothly and trouble-free too. People with small children apparently do not have to queue. I wish each time travelling to Belarus was so easy-peasy. Unfortunately, we did not have much time to enjoy beautiful Hrodna.
Collective Prayer of Evangelical-Christians, Čyžouka Arena, Minsk 2015. Source: Krynica.info
According to the recent study on religiosity in Central-Eastern Europe by Pew Research Centre, the vast majority of Belarusians (84%) declare they believe in God. Surprisingly, despite decades of state-enforced secularisation, Belarusian society is fertile ground for religious activities and organisations.
Also, the overwhelming majority of people affiliate themselves with specific religious organisations. However, the number of practising believers who regularly engage in religious activities is far smaller. Unexpectedly, Belarusian Protestants, not covered in the study, might be the de facto leaders on the ground.
Catholic procession in Minsk, Source: Radio Liberty
Inspired by the report on religious restrictions that the Pew Research Centre released in April, I have written an article about the situation in Belarus. The article looks at how the authorities struggle to reconcile the religious diversity with the right to equality of religions.
Last month, the Pew Research Centre released its Global Restrictions on Religion report, which gauges barriers imposed by governments as well as social hostilities towards religious organisations. Out of the nearly 200 countries studied, Belarus ranked among the ‘high-risk’ group when it comes to religious restrictions.
Recently I have visited Wales for the first time. Apart from the dramatic scenery, what truly impressed me was the omnipresent bilingualism.
All road signs, information boards in shops and churches, were both in Welsh and English. These languages have a completely different origin, with Welsh belonging to the Brittonic group of the Celtic family of languages.
The mountainous terrain made Wales pretty much inaccessible for outsiders for centuries, thus the distinct language, culture and identity have developed. The linguistic politics of the authorities also helped.
At George’s Cafe, church and cafe at the same place
This year for the first time in my life I felt that Mother’s Day was my day too. Here in the UK it is celebrated on 26 March. As a young mum, I want to share my experience of combining the greatest projects in my life: being a mother and doing a PhD.
While not with my family, I am studying in the library. Here in the picture, I am in the newly discovered cafe in the centre of London, George’s Cafe. It is on the premises of an Anglican Church that holds regular Sunday services and runs the primary school.
The Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church in London
Yesterday I attended the service at the Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church in London. The context, however, was rather disturbing – the Freedom Day celebrated on 25 March in Minsk turned into massive arrests and seizures of peaceful protesters. The priest from the Belarusian Catholic Mission to London marked this strongly in the sermon.
Religious institutions in Belarus reacted differently to these developments. The head of the Belarusian Catholic Church asked for a peaceful resolution and humanitarian treatment of those detained by the police. The Orthodox Church remains silent, whereas a Baptist believer appealed a petition to the authorities.
Speakers of my panel “Social and political movements”
Last Saturday I attended the 2nd conference “Belarusian Studies in the 21st century” organised by the Ostrogorski Centre, SSEES (UCL) and the Francis Skaryna Library in London.
This time the event attracted around 20 scholars and researchers from the places including the UK, Finnland, Lithuania, Germany and Japan who discussed their work and around 40 guest attendants. A special lecture on Francis Skaryna’s edition of the Bible followed the conference.
The Belarusian authorities often emphasise that the country is tolerant to all religions.
Yet, this state-endorsed tolerance is not always straight away translated into practice, particularly with regards to Protestants.
Yesterday I experienced how various Belarusian Christians can gather together and share the common values, beliefs, even when belonging to different denominations.
I attended an open 40th birthday event of Paval Seviaryniec. He is one of the most recognisable faces of the Belarusian opposition, also a former political prisoner, and currently the leader of Belarusian Christian Democracy. The event also served as an occasion to collect donations for the Belarusian Christian information service krynica.info.
The Hill of Crosses, Lithuania. Source: dailymail.co.uk
How does Lithuania cope with an emerging religious diversity after regaining its independence? That is one of the questions Dr. Milda Alisauskiene, Professor of Sociology at Vytautas Magnus University, raised in a podcast from a series “The Religious Studies Project“.
Dr. Alisauskiene discussed also dynamics between the Catholic Church and the communist authorities in the Soviet-occupied Lithuania, but also some current developments regarding the Lithuanian religiosity.