The National Human Rights Award in 2007 has been conferred today by the organizing committee of the Charter’97. Ivona Matsukevich, the head of the parish committee of St. Joseph’s church has been awarded in the category “For defense of human rights and Christian values”. She is the chairperson of the committee of St. Joseph’s parish in Minsk. The creative association “Pahonya” has been awarded in the category “For defense of human rights and freedom of artistic creativity”. The winner in the category “For personal courage in human rights protection” is a human rights activist and wife of a political prisoner, Tastyana Klimava-Leanovich.
Before the ceremony the international coordinator of the Charter’97 reminded about the verdict to one of the Young Front leaders, a laureate of the National Human Rights Award. Artur Finkevich.
“I cannot forget about the laureate of the National Award, one of the leaders of the Young Front Artur Finkevich, who was sentenced to a year and a half of imprisonment yesterday. It’s a disgraceful verdict. We know Artur as a courageous man, and we’ll do everything to release him from prison,” Andrei Sannikov said.
The award “For personal courage in human rights protection” was given to Tatsyana Leanovich-Klimava, the wife of the political prisoner Andrei Klimau, by the former Minister of foreign affairs Mikhail Marynich, who had been sentenced to a prison term on political grounds.
“I admire strength of character and courage of Tatsyana and all their family in these hard times. Such people as the Klimaus family give a good example of infinite courage. We all hope that Andrei Klimau will be released soon,” Mikhail Marynich said.
As a response Tatsyana Leanovich-Klimava reminded that there 5 more political prisoners in Belarus except her husband, and struggle for their release should be continued.
“It is extremely pleasant for me to be given this award from Mikhail Marynich. I want to express gratitude to the Charter’97 organizing committee for such an honour to be given the National Human Rights Award. Thanks to my family, my friends, Andrei’s mother Ala, to journalists who have always been supporting me and saving Andrei’s life. Now there are political prisoners in Belarus, and they are many. From time to time the regime casts to prison new political hostages. Our common goal is to have no political prisoners in our country. I dream of this time to come, when all political prisoners return home, to their families,” told Andrei Klimau’s wife. Andrei Klimau had been sentenced to 2 years in a colony for publishing an article on the web.
The award to Ivona Matsukevich, the chairperson of the parish committee of St. Joseph’s parish in Minsk has been given by the Charter’97 coordinator Zmitser Bandarenka. Throughout the last 2 years Belarusians have been witnessing a spiritual deed. Every day after the evening service and after the morning service on Sunday, Ivona Matsukevich goes to St. Joseph’s Church. She prays for return of the house of worship to the Catholic Church.
“When you look at pictures of the old Minsk, you see that dozens of new Catholic churches were in the city in the beginning of the century. Then majority of them disappeared. But those buildings that have survived are not returned to church members. We know that the Red Church, which parishioner I am, was returned to believers who have been praying near its walls for many months, and even took part in hunger strikes. We know that there was a struggle for the Cathedral as well. It lasted for 8 months and 4 days. People were coming to the church daily and prayed for this building not to be used as a sports hall. And we are witnessing for a few years the struggle of people for return of St. Joseph’s Church. Dozens, hundreds and thousands of people come there to pray, but one person is there every day. It’s Ivona Matsukevich. She took part in the struggle for return of the Cathedral Church for all 8 months and 4 days, she fought for the Red Church. And now for more than 2 years she was on “spiritual watch” near the St. Joseph’s Church. Thank you very much,” Zmitser Bandarenka said.
The chairperson of the St. Joseph’s parish noted in response that St. Joseph’s Church was seized from Catholics 142 years ago. “There were many changes, revolutions, but the holy place remains. God cannot be treaded down. Today we ask God; let our people recollect themselves, let them return to God and open their hearts to Him. A person could stand up from one’s knees by kneeling to God. The fact that you have noticed me means that there are still grounds for hope. If there are people who see my daily prayer, it means that we have chances and we have future,” Ivona Matsukevich said.
The award to the creative association “Pahonya” was given by the international coordinator of the Charter’97 Andrei Sannikov.
“It is exceptionally pleasant to give this prize to the creative association “Pahonya” facing the great holiday, the 90th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic. This prize is given for defense of the artistic freedom, for patriotism and active citizenship and staunch artistic position of the association,” Andrei Sannikov said to the well-known artist Ales Marachkin when giving the award.
“In fact it’s a prize for spiritual renaissance. Our association’s work is based in the first place on artistic freedom and non-conformism. It’s our Belarusian resistance. The first words angel said to Virgin Mary were: “Do not fear!” That is why we always say our friends and colleagues not to fear. If an artist has fear, he is not free. Today we are glad that many people who are close to Pahonya association have joined the Union of Artists. I think the next year must be very interesting. We haven’t put up our artistic sword, and we shall expand our spiritual territory. Long live Belarus!” noted the chairman of the creative association “Pahonya” Ales Marachkin.