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.
Presenting my work in progress at the Congress of Belarusian Studies, Kaunas.
Yes, I felt a bit stressed before my presentation at the Congress.
Paradoxically, to overcome the negative thoughts, I tried out an old method of catastrophizing – by considering what could have possible gone bad and the worst scenarios.
When I realized that actually even forgetting English would not have been that bad, as I could have been speaking, for example, Belarusian then (as the audience was predominantly Belarusian), I got the idea. ‘Nothing bad can happen. I will present my work-in-progress and receive a constructive feedback. As simple as that’.
So here I am in Kaunas, Lithuania. I am attending the 6th International Congress of Belarusian Studies, an academic must for researchers studying Belarus. I am here for the first time in a capacity of a PhD student and want to share my work-in-progress.
Feels a bit excited and I do not know what to expect. Well, I need to give a presentation of my paper, that is for sure. There will be some discussion afterwards, that is for sure.
“PhD tends to isolate, to some extent”, I remember I heard that a lot last year, when have just started my PhD programme. Yes, it does, indeed. We often spend hours in libraries, or at other intellectually-friendly places, studying others’ writings. I consider myself lucky, because my research draws on ethnographic methods and I can work with people, and learn from them.
This summer when I was doing my fieldwork, I explored a bit a Baptist church located in the sleeping area of Minsk. That was the biggest church I have seen so far. It was built in the 1990s, when Protestant communities did not face such building restrictions as they are in place today.
It was Saturday. I entered the church building. It looked quite impressive inside.