Thousands of people are suffering increasing hardship in the Polish Belarus border area, and the political tension is mounting. For that reason, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the “Christian Vision” working group of the Coordination Council for Belarus are together calling on political leaders to enable immediate access to humanitarian aid, to comply with applicable law and not to use people as a plaything of politics.
“The actions of the Belarus dictator are criminal and cynical. Yet the political struggle for TV images and the power of interpreting them hides the suffering of thousands of men, women and children. They are caught in the middle and urgently need help. They need protection and they have rights,” says Petra Bosse-Huber, EKD bishop for ecumenical relations. “Human beings are not weapons. Europe should therefore not react to the attempted blackmail itself by abandoning law and humanity. As Christians, we believe in the One who went where people are defenceless and in distress: in the cold, through sludge, between rolls of barbed wire. For that reason we as a church can’t keep silent. The European Union member states must allow the people to enter without delay because winter has already arrived and they are at risk of freezing to death,” the bishop states.
Natallia Vasilevich, theologian and spokesperson of the “Christian Vision“ working group of the Coordination Council for Belarus, underlines: “The question in the parable of the Good Samaritan – Who is my neighbour? – is not a matter of alternatives. It is important to keep in view all the groups and individuals suffering under the injustice and manipulations of the dictatorial regime, whether they be the Belarusian population or those in transit across the country. They are all human beings. Whether as migrants in the mud, as political prisoners being tortured, or as medical staff suffering under the regime’s Covid-19 denial, they are all human beings in Belarus, attempting to survive under threat and enormous pressure. They are our neighbours, and need attention and support, justice and compassion, the protection of their human dignity and their rights.”
Background to the situation
The Lukashenko regime has, since summer 2021, been steering people from crisis areas, in particular Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, via Belarus in the direction of the European Union. Its aim is clearly to force a lifting of the international sanctions imposed after the rigged presidential elections on 9 August 2020 and the brutal suppression of the protest movement. Likewise the president wants to distract attention from the continuing repression in Belarus, where every day more and more people are arrested and given prison sentences in political trials.
The EU and its member states neighbouring on Belarus have reacted by sealing off their borders. Poland, in particular, has recourse to push-backs. Belarusian border guards, in their turn, are enclosing people in a narrow corridor at the external border or driving them to overcome the barrier construction by force. Close to the border between Poland and Belarus, thousands of people seeking protection are wandering around in the forests. They are starving and freezing, trapped in the border area, or are jammed together in provisional camps near the border crossings.
On the Polish side, the border has been declared a no-go area. Aid organisations, doctors, lawyers, independent media and human rights organizations have no access. According to official information, a dozen people have already died at the border between Poland and Belarus, the latest one being a 14-year-old boy who froze to death. Aid agencies assume that the death toll is far higher.
The whole appeal can be downloaded in German and English at www.ekd.de/appell-belarus.
Hanover, 18 November 2021
EKD Press Office