Hrodna: Day of Hunger-Strike of Catholics
The hunger strike of believers of Hrodna-based Roman Catholic parish of Our Lady of Vostraia Brama, Mother of Mercy, continues
for the 5th day. At the moment the rector of the parish Father Aliaksandr Shemet and 16 parishioners are taking part in the protest. They demand a written permission from Hrodna city authorities for construction of a new church. The hunger strike is carried out in the building of a chapel.
According to Aliaksandr Shemet, participants of the hunger strike are ladies, mostly elderly ones, that’s why their state of health causes constant concern. Yesterday two women had to stop the hunger strike, as their pressure went high. Today one more woman was taken bad, and the priest does not exclude that she would have to stop the protest as well.
Yesterday the priest addressed the regional executive committee’s health department with an appeal to provide medical supervision for the hunger strikers. The regional executive committee representatives refused. Father Aliaksandr Shemet said that he would be calling in emergency ambulance by the phone if necessary.
Today the head of the Religious and Ethnic Affairs Department of the city council Ihar Papou has visited the chapel. As said by the official, he brought documents that allegedly allow the Catholics to build a new church. However those documents were addressed to the head of the parish council, a lay person who is not taking part in the hunger strike, and not to Father Aliaksandr. Moreover, as said by the priest, Ihar Papou acted in a disrespectful way, and said that he had brought documents to the ‘owner of the church’.
The hunger strike started on December 1. The protesters demand a written permission to build a church. They had been waiting for the permission for almost 10 years. The community is 8,000 members-strong, and it possesses a little brick building of Sts. Peter and Paul chapel, and a wooden chapel for 300 seats. They are situated on a lot of land of 0.27 hectares in the part of the city beyond the river of Nioman. These buildings cannot admit all believers who come for services.
’Today in Belarus the Catholic Church undergoes persecution which can be compared to the one after 1917,’ priest Aliaksandr Shemet said.