A team of like-minded Christians recorded a series of video interviews entitled “Testimonies of Violence” with those who suffered arbitrariness after the elections in Belarus.
A team of three friends, members of various evangelical churches in Minsk – Andrei Novikov, Zmitser Khvedaruk and Alyona Baltseva – conducted a series of interviews with victims of the brutality and lawlessness of the security forces in Belarus in August this year, mediates Christian Megaportal invictory.com.
The aim of the project is to draw attention to the terrible events experienced by Belarusians and to call on all, first of all believers, to have compassion and mercy.
“What happened in Belarus after the presidential election shocked the whole world. Violence against civilians, hostilities directly in residential areas, the shooting at house windows, torture in police stations and pre-trial detention centers, the death of at least several people – no one expected such a thing to happen in a European country where there have been no armed conflicts since independence. It is difficult to find a Belarusian who was not either hurt by himself or whose friends and acquaintances hadn´t sufferin recent weeks, ”said Alyona Baltseva, one of the founders of the project.
Aljona spoke about the events and interviews in the country.
For example, men in unknown civilian clothes kidnapped Zmitser directly from the polling station after he drew attention to an empty ballot box and wanted to fixate the violation. His wife was unable to find him for 5 days – she didn´t receive any information about his condition and location.
For several days, security forces, right next to my house, brutally arrested people, fired tear gas and used light and noise grenades. Many of our acquaintances have witnessed or been victims of torture and beatings.
I volunteered near the infamous Minsk Detention Center on Akrestsini Street, where prisoners were beaten, tortured and raped. There is ample documented evidence of this, but for some reason no criminal case has been opened against these facts.
I saw the terrible state of those who were simply “lucky” and “not particularly beaten”: knocked out teeth, beaten blue bodies and legs, fractures and open head wounds. I saw hysterically crying relatives who could not get information about where their child, wife, parent is; whether they are alive or in what condition they are. I saw strong and powerful men crying out loud and repeating, “For what?” It is impossible to delete all this from the memory.
Even those Belarusians who have not suffered personally suffer severe consequences: fear, anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms. As our brother Yuri Karmanovich said in a recent emotional speech that spread across the country, “we were spiritually raped and there is nothing we can do but to cry out.”
By the way, the vast majority were detained accidentally: on the way home from work, in a parking lot near home, at a public transport stop – they did not take part in any demonstrations.
It does not seem conceivable to justify and rationalize what has happened here, but some Belarusian believers and even entire communities have chosen this position. There are many evangelical Christians among the victims. Some, instead of finding support after experienced horrors, faced public condemnation. “You should have sat at home,” “the Christian doesn’t go to the demonstrations,” “you ran there yourself.”
And also – “all power is from God,” so that the church should not speak on political matters. But is murder, rape and torture a policy? Does the church have the right to remain silent when there is public lawlessness and crimes against humanity are committed? Some victims were not allowed to share their testimonies at all at the church meeting.
I would like to emphasize once again that the absolute majority of detainees did not even take part in the demonstrations. And few peaceful participants protested or covered the events as journalists. For example, one of the heroes in our interviews, the father of 7 children – not some dangerous soldier – was pulled out of the car when he and his brothers prayed for Belarus far from the demonstration site and then he was tortured with electric shocks, even though he shouted that his heart was sick.
The flow of terrible testimonies was accombined by the silence or ambiguous reaction of the church leadership of some denominations. Some just ignored everything until the last minute. Some called for an end to mutual cruelty. For a person who has experienced beatings and torture in inhumane conditions, this wording is another trauma in addition to everything he has experienced. This is as cynical as to call for an end to mutual violence in a situation where the abusive husband beat his wife to death by stabbing her several times with a knife while the woman defended herself with a rolling pin.
Looking at all this, we decided that we want to give a voice to the victims, we want to show the believers who turn a blind eye to the evil that has happened and blame the victims, that the victims include our brothers and sisters who go to the same churches.
In fact, the fact that some Christians have chosen the position of “they are guilty themselves” cannot evoke other emotions than sadness and even horror. After all, God repeatedly says in the pages of Scripture that He hates injustice, calls upon the oppressor to be exposed, and calls the oppressed to be saved (Isaiah 1:17 — this passage is the epigraph of the interview series). “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord..” (Proverbs 17:15) This is very serious.
We understand that we cannot convince everyone – this can be seen from some of the comments left to us. But even if our videos helps someone who has suffered but did not receive support from their church feel that they are not alone, then we believe our mission has been accomplished.
In general, the “500 years” project in which we publish our interviews is a cultural and educational project that we started in 2017, when Belarus celebrated the 500th anniversary of two important events in our history: the European Reformation and the first national translation of the Bible by Francysk Skaryna.
The jubilee year came to an end and we decided that we could not continue to work on the project at the same pace and dedicate all our free time to it. However, after the events of August this year, we gathered with the same team without planning and agreed unanimously that we wanted to reflect the situation. Again, we felt God’s prompting that it was needed at the moment. One night we called to the heroes and arranged interviews – no one rejected us, everyone was ready to talk about their experience in public.
We will continue to work on interviews: we will film, edit, add English subtitles so that these videos can be distributed among foreigners, and in Russian – for those who do not understand Belarusian, as well as for people with hearing impairments. In short, we’re working to distribute these videos as much as possible. Now it seems important to us to document these testimonies, to tell the stories of our brothers and sisters, to draw attention to what they experienced, to invite all those who are not indifferent, to serve the victims and their families.
We certainly would not have managed this amount of work by ourselves, but fortunately we are helped by volunteers who want to be useful in this situation. Many people offer help to know that they have done at least something real in this situation.
All videos are displayed in a 500-channel playlist.
P.S. If you would like to participate in the project, you have ideas for helping the victims, write to: email@example.com, we will forward your e-mail to the participants of the project.
As a reminder the protests continue in Belarus after the presidential elections on 9 August, which, according to the Central Electoral Commission, were won by a large majority of incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko whose been President since 1994. But the people in the country do not agree and the confrontation continues.