Sunday, February 03, 2008

This Earth Times story…

I am just now working on the new BHTimes and I came across this story from the Earth Times:

Formerly atheist Belarus embraces religion

The parents of Misha, 10, and Pavel, 12, were appalled. According to stern police escorting the shamefaced youngsters home, the two Belarusian boys had been actively practicing religion. Both sons of solid middle-class families in the Belarusian capital Minsk, the pair, whose family preferred not to be named in the media, had according to law enforcers been celebrating Christmas in public, specifically by singing carols from door to door in apartment buildings.

The pursuit is harmless in most places, but in authoritarian Belarus most organized religion is actively repressed by the state, and if it is popular or earns someone money, then even the secret police, still known as the KGB, can target the activity.

Most slammed the door in the boys' faces, but more than a few neighbours in the central Minsk city district forked over food, candy, and even cash to the enterprising youngsters. They spent it on vodka and cigarettes, leading to noisy behaviour by Misha and Pavel in public, arrest by Minsk security forces, and very unpleasant scenes with their parents.

"We were just absolutely shocked," Misha's Mother told a Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Now, I have been living in Pinsk, Belarus for six years now and I say this story is an unnecessary provocation. What those boys were doing is the equivalent of caroling and has been a part of Belarusian and Russian culture since the time of the Soviet Union. Boys and girls go out singing Christian songs every year and if there are any hard feelings anywhere it is only over the quality of their singing. We have had boys and girls come to our door every year during the holidays, they stand there, sing a song and we give them a couple of hundred rubles- basically somewhere between a dime and a quarter. Our 12 year old has no particular religious urges but has been doing this every year and claims to have made between $7 and $15 for his troubles. To say that there is any kind of crack-down or hard feelings over this activity is an utter falsehood. Belarus is mainly orthodox, all of the Pinsk's churches have their services attended by many, many followers each week and other than what might be called "normal" anti-Semitism, there does not seem to be any particular issues over religion at all. Even the president has often made great efforts to show his own connection to the church and religious principles [].

I really believe that the world has heard enough unnecessary negative news about Belarus. The real story here is about the police grabbing two boys for underage drinking and smoking. The legal age for both activities is 18 here and is seriously enforced. I think that the policy that says the press should feel free to slander and prevaricate over issues Belarus should stop. I really thought that will all of the latest talk of deeper integration with Russia and an expanding trade with Belarus had put an end to all of that, or, at least showed that it was all business based pressure on the part of the European press in the first place.


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