Mazyr: Protestants Collect Signatures for Return of Bernardine Monastery to Catholics
In Mazyr (Homel region) 1 665 signatures were collected a petition calling for amendments to the 2002 law On freedom of conscience and religious organizations, Pavel Nazdra, a member of the local Protestant church, told BelaPAN.
According to him, more than 1 600 people also put their signatures under the petition for the return of the 17th-century Bernardine monastery complex in downtown Minsk to believers.
90% of all people to whom campaigners approached in Mazyr reportedly agreed to sign the petition for the amendments. Nine percent denied their signatures, fearing persecution from the authorities and one percent was firmly against the amendments, Mr. Nazdra said.
Siarhei Lukanin, spokesman for the campaign, told BelaPAN that the ‘extremely imperfect’ regulations prompted people of different faiths to unite, noting that one could hardly imagine several years ago that Protestants would support Roman Catholics in their attempt to get the monastery complex back, whereas Roman Catholics would stage a hunger strike following the example of a Protestant community, New Life Church.
’We see God uniting all believers in the face of a common threat, extremely imperfect religious regulations in Belarus that are the cause of mass violations of believers’ rights in the country’, Mr. Lukanin said.
The petition calls for amendments, which it says should bring the law into line with the constitution.
The signature collection campaign kicked off on 22 April. Its organizers, the group of opposition activists willing to set up the Christian Democratic Party that would include members of different Christian faiths, intend to gather at least 50 000 signatures to the petition and send its copies to the head of state, the Constitutional Court and the House of Representatives.
The Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church urged believers to deny their signatures. It said that its firm line was that the law helped maintain peace among religious communities and stability in the country.