Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya calls churches to pray and act to end conflicts and guard freedom

15 June, 2023

Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC
Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC

Press Release No: 14/23
15 June 2023

Belarusian politician Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya calls on the European churches to pray for the people in Belarus and Ukraine, and to raise their voices for “true peace, true brotherhood and true love.” In a keynote speech delivered on 15 June at the 2023 CEC General Assembly in Tallinn, she reflected on how churches in Europe can guard morals and freedom. 

“Pray for those who suffer, pray for our political prisoners, pray for Belarussian people and their liberation from tyranny, pray for Ukrainian people, their freedom and safety.”

In 2020–2023, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya became a symbol of the peaceful struggle for democracy and strong female leadership. She spoke about the political situation in Belarus and the war in Ukraine, describing both of these situations as a conflict between brothers, with an aggressor twisting the notion of brotherhood to assert his dominance. “When empires speak of brotherhood, they tend to strangle lesser nations and countries in their ‘brotherly’ hugs,” she said.

“Genuine brotherhood must be a feeling among equals: it presupposes equality. True brotherhood does not seek to exploit or harm,” the politician said. In Belarus, women and people of faith have been playing a significant role in upholding these truths.

Churches and church leaders in Belarus are, however, to be found on both sides of the conflict. Many have risked their freedom and even their lives to defend the ideal of non-violence, others however  have  became complicit by blessing war and oppression. “Repressive regimes always try to control people of faith - through repression, manipulation and sometimes even through privilege - buying the loyalty of church leaders,” Tsikhanouskaya said.

In today’s Europe, religious communities and people of faith “can play a significant role in promoting peace in the society, maintaining hope under the yoke of tyranny, and contributing to democratic transformation,” Tsikhanouskaya concluded. “People, whose faith teaches them not to kill, not to steal, not to bear false witness, who honour God more than political leaders, whose moral strength is empowered by their belief - are extremely dangerous for dictatorships and extremely needed in democracies.”

The leader of the Belarusian democratic movement implored church leaders to use their power in supporting people in Belarus: demand the release of political prisoners, especially those with pre-existing health conditions like cancer and diabetes, demand access to worship sites, hold public services and prayers for Belarus, facilitate dialogue.

Read full text of keynote speech from Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

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For more information or an interview, please contact:

Naveen Qayyum
Communication Officer
Conference of European Churches
Rue Joseph II, 174 B-1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 486 75 82 36
Twitter: @ceceurope
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