Belarusian Believers – What Are They Like?

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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.

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Religions in Belarus: Declared Equality vs. Reality

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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.

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Bilingualism à la Welsh or à la Belarusian?

croesoigymruRecently 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.

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‘Mummy Is just Doing a PhD!’

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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.

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Religion and the Social Protest in Belarus

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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.

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Networking and Conferencing on Belarus in London

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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.

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‘Ecumenical’ Birthday Party in Minsk

screenshot-2016-12-31-12-35-47The 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.

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