Belarus is committed to Christian values, interreligious peace and national tranquility. President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made the statement as he met with participants of the 4th European Orthodox and Catholic Forum “Religion and cultural pluralism: challenges for Christian churches in Europe” in Minsk on 3 June.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that the meeting obliges him and the entire Belarusian nation to put even more efforts and step up responsibility with regard to the preservation of interreligious peace and national tranquility. The President assured participants of the forum that they would never have to blame the Belarusian nation and the Belarusian state in this regard. “We will always be reliable neighbors, partners and friends of all people regardless of their religion and regardless of their choice of the way to the temple,” the head of state said.
“Belarus is unique because its history has not been darkened by religious wars and interethnic conflicts. We carefully preserve and hand down from generation to generation the good traditions of our ancestors — mutual understanding, tolerance, mercifulness, respect for labor, peacefulness and patriotism,” the President remarked.
According to Alexander Lukashenko, Orthodoxy and Catholicism have played their part in history to determine the mentality and the national character of the Belarusian nation. “And today Christian belief represents an inalienable component of the outlook and the spiritual life of the majority of our citizens,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko drew attention to the fact that at present no nation and no religious denomination can live in isolation. “Global tasks facing the humankind today can be addressed only by joint efforts. In the 1950s the famous French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said that nations had become so interdependent economically and psychologically that they could grow further only by interpenetrating each other,” the head of state remarked.
According to the President, globalization has both positive and negative consequences. “We are witnessing the decline of morals, rejection of Christian values and destruction of traditional family structures in many countries of the West. The cult of consumption and the pursuit of pleasure threaten to corrupt the society and debase the moral principles of states. The establishment of a new world order based on these principles will ruthlessly blur the historical and cultural differences between peoples, their priceless, centuries-old family values and traditions of statehood, the rational way of life and interaction with nature and society,” Alexander Lukashenko noted.
The President said that in Belarus, just like in other parts of the world, the manifestations of the global economic crisis are coupled with humanitarian issues. “Unfortunately, the progressing moral deformation could not but affect our people. The Belarusian society is facing the same challenges as any European states. We need to strengthen our integrity and moral values. We are concerned by the increasing alcohol abuse and drug addition, social orphanage and other unpleasant phenomena of our times,” the head of state said.
In his opinion, it is time to remember that it was Christian worldview that shaped the European culture and civilization. He believes that the solution of many vital issues is impossible without active participation of Eastern Orthodox and Catholic believes. “It is very important and encouraging that the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in Europe are trying to find new forms of inter-Christian solidarity,” the President emphasized.
Alexander Lukashenko believes that the forum should contribute to stronger interaction between people of different confessions and views. It should help them find contact points through discussions and a productive dialogue. “It is the approach that life itself requires us to follow. One should not forget that more and more troubled areas and military conflict points emerge in the world and they bring a lot of suffering for the people. Therefore, all the states should work together to secure a peaceful future for the mankind,” the head of state said. Alexander Lukashenko added that the work is possible only with active and concerted actions of both government agencies and public institutions, primarily religious organizations.
“The church can do a lot to bring people closer and to unite the international community around genuine values,” the President is convinced. “By word and deed, just like Saint Apostle Paul taught, you call for uniting efforts of representatives of various confessions in order to make our planet a calm and cozy home for all its children,” the head of state added.
Addressing participants of the forum, Alexander Lukashenko expressed hope that the conference will help them learn more about Belarus, to get familiar with its nature, history and culture as well as with hospitable and wise people. “Your coming to Minsk for work and for human interaction is a significant event in the spiritual life of the Belarusians. It indicates the recognition of the fact that our nation stays committed to Christian values,” the head of state remarked.
Participants of the meeting share opinions regarding ways to cope with challenges, pointed out the importance of preserving Christian values for Europeans, strengthening of peace and stability.
“We should do our utmost to support our moral principles and not to lose our Christian legacy. In spite of the differences that existed between us in the past, in spite of all atrocities that our history saw, we believe that it is necessary to maintain dialogue with each other,” Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima said.
Archbishop of Esztergom and Budapest Peter Erdo pointed out the role of joint efforts to enhance Christian values and cited an example of Belarus where various religious denominations have an opportunity to develop on a propitious ground. “Belarus’ spiritual development is as good as that in other European countries. Therefore, today our main objective is to maintain peace and justice in Europe by means of all available instruments,” he said.
Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate's department for external church relations, conferred greetings from Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill to the Belarusian President. “We are glad to be your guests. Belarus is a prosperous country. There are many good roads, numerous construction sites in Minsk and nearby,” the Metropolitan remarked. “Many of us wonder what is the secret of Belarus’ success. I think that the secret is, among other things, in the spiritual unity of the Belarusian nation,” he added.
Apostolic Nuncio in Belarus Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, for his part, conferred greetings from Pope Francis. “Today’s meeting has brought together representatives of 22 European countries who stay on a visit in Belarus. It means that Europe and its peoples have come to Belarus because participants of the meeting, just like politicians, represent their countries and their flocks. The only difference between us and politicians is that we prefer dialogue. We do not want to create barriers between us,” Claudio Gugerotti said.
At the end of the meeting Alexander Lukashenko stressed that it is inadmissible to neglect Christian values. “Today we should be united more than ever because a serious damage is made to the foundation of our lives, namely the Christian values. We must do whatever it takes to protect Christian values. If we lose them we will lose everything,” the head of state stressed.
The President said that the Belarusians have always been and will be one of the pillars of Christianity because Belarus’ development relies on Christian values.
Alexander Lukashenko agreed that the integrity of the Belarusian nation guarantees stability in the society and the state. “You can be sure that Belarus will never become a place of confrontation of existing religious denominations and faiths. We will do our best to preserve our Christian values,” the head of state said.
The President also pointed out the importance of the fact that the forum of Minsk is focused not on the faith doctrines but on the basic life principles. “I am convinced that today Catholics, Orthodox believers and representatives of other religions have joined efforts to save the mankind. This is the achievement of churches which put aside their endless disputes about doctrines and focused on the essence of people’s lives,” Alexander Lukashenko remarked.