Defend Lazar or give up on him?

When I was surfing the Internet I came across an article by a renowned author Svetlana Kalinkina from “Narodnaja Volya”, devoted to the mysterious imprisonment of a Catholic priest Uladislav Lazar and to the stand taken on by the Belarusian human rights defenders. Svetlana Kalinkina is one of the most famous, colourful and popular journalists of our media. We may say that her word is widely read by many people.

I carefully read the material “Theory and Practice” once more and I think that the author deliberately exacerbated the situation, expressing her outrage at the position of the national human rights defenders who do nothing about this case, they are not eager to regard the priest who was arrested without clear accusations, a prisoner of conscience. There is a journalistic term which means to aggravate the situation deliberately and provocatively (in a good sense), in order to draw public attention. In that sense, I totally understand Svetlana Kalinkina. But so far the article provoked negative reactions among people – many horrible comments addressed to “fussy and fat” human rights defenders appeared. Various computer “trolls” and agents provocateurs appeared even faster. In addition to the constant pressure from the authorities, human rights defenders must continue to tolerate different nefarious intrigues or the attacks of populist hecklers that have grown in numbers recently. It may seem that such people don’t like when others are doing good – so let them organize themselves and create their own organization defending human rights, let them do it more professionally, accurately and more honestly than “Viasna”, “Platforma”, BCD and other human rights organizations do it. But they won’t do it…

Svetlana Kalinkina quotes her conversation with “a well-known defender of human rights” without mentioning his name, probably because of journalism ethics. However, it would be desirable to disclose the name, because the real defenders of human rights do not hide their views and standpoints. Judging by the reactions of young human rights defenders it follows that they took those harsh comments of the journalist to heart. In this sense the work of a human rights defender is more unrewarding than the work of a journalist. I know that on the basis of my personal experience. Those experienced human rights defenders won’t feel “offended” by such a critique unlike young and sincere activists.

You mustn’t go to hell against father and you mustn’t get to the altar before priest. What is very typical is that in the case of Father Lazar the Church authorities in Belarus are silent so far(!). Such a position may be due to many problems. The first version, bad. The funny thing is that the priest might have been involved in helping some mythical spy. Given modern technology this theory is simply absurd. But it is possible that the priest Lazar is really involved in something bad, which could seriously harm the image or rather I should say the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The second version, even worse. Church leaders are simply afraid of the government authorities, so they do not exacerbate the problem of surprising imprisonment of the priest.  They are afraid that they might lose some preferences such as permission to build new churches, etc. And finally the third version, the only one which is acceptable from a moral point of view, both for the believer and the common man. Church authorities believe that hidden diplomatic solutions are the best measures to defend the prisoner Uladislav Lazar. In the last case, human rights defenders should not intervene especially as their main principle is the same as the surgeon’s one – do not harm.

I agree with Kalinkowa in many aspects, but human rights defenders are not entitled to make statements which should be dealt with by politicians and activists of social movements and organizations. Society, however, is not silent – it collects signatures, writes declarations and demands so that the case of Uladislav Lazar was public. Last week, the leader of the BCD Paul Siewiaryniec made a public appeal. Unfortunately, human rights defenders really have no reasons to call the arrested priest a political prisoner, because then almost half of all prisoners in Belarus should be called “political”.

We cannot predict the influence of our words on something. It is common knowledge that very often the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It means that sometimes instead of helping someone, you can find yourself acting to the detriment of others, as in this case to Lazarov’s detriment.

Uladimir Chilmanowicz


Other political prisoners