Belarus, September 2014

Discovering the Source of a Unity Beyond Borders

In September 2014, a brother of Taizé visited Belarus, after the summer meetings at Taizé in which several groups from that country took part and before the meetings in Riga and Prague. In this account of his travel, he shares some experiences lived out during his visit, with the "Proposals 2014" from Brother Alois as guidelines.
Christ extended his friendship to all, without rejecting anyone. Those who love Christ all across the earth form, in his steps, a large community of friendship. This is called communion.
Proposals 2014, introduction

Since our last visit in Belarus, in spring 2013 for the celebration of the Orthodox Easter, the friendship with young adults and Church leaders from different places deepened further, thanks to the European meeting in Strasbourg in which more than 1000 young adults from Belarus took part, and thanks to the summer gatherings at Taizé. From my first day in Belarus this year, I experienced this “community of friendship”. During the meetings with the youth, I used to say that I came to visit some friends, and they took great care of me in every place.

It is not possible to live faith all by ourselves. Faith is born when there is an experience of communion, when we discover that Christ is the source of an unrestricted unity.
First Proposal - Join a local praying community

At Gomel we met the young people in an Orthodox Monastery. Talking about their recent stay at Taizé in August, the first feedback they gave us was the following: “We were able to meet some young Christians from other countries, and notice how much we have in common, including many questions about our daily lives”. For me as well, visiting them in my turn, it was clear at many moments that Christ was the only source of our unity.

If local communities (also called parishes), groups and chaplaincies were increasingly to become places of friendship! Warm and welcoming places where we support one another, where we are attentive to those who are weak, to foreigners, to people who do not share our ideas...
First Proposal

In Minsk, on the first evening of the trip, it was a joy to see many young people who had been at Taizé during the summer, including some teenagers, but also some Orthodox students of theology who came to the meeting to get to know more about the community and the meetings.

When I was invited to meet the young people in a Catholic church of Grodno, I felt very deeply that these young people were already part of a “warm and welcoming place of friendship”. And for me personally, as a “foreigner”, one of the most striking experiences was the hospitality provided in each place that I visited. During each step of my travel, I felt indeed that as people who love Christ we were truly united.

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We can undertake acts of solidarity, together with Christians of different affiliations, and also with people who do not share our faith. Whether the poverty is material or spiritual, solidarity implies a two-way sharing: in providing assistance, we are often the ones who receive.
Second Proposal – Extend friendship beyond the boundaries that limit us

In many places, at one point during the visit, people were explaining me some initiatives of solidarity begun by the Christian believers. In one of the biggest Orthodox parishes of Minsk, which sends a group of young people to Taizé every year, the beauty of the liturgy is combined with some big social projects initiated by the Church, for example a workshop providing work to people with learning disabilities.

In Grodno, the Orthodox priest I visited for the first time told me about several social projects supported by the Church, for example, projects for poor people and children. I am thankful for our talk, because it was a new and fruitful contact; he also showed me the ancient and unusual church building from the 12th century, Kalozhskaja Carkva, and the Orthodox Cathedral as well.

Rather than staying alone with one’s questions, find a few other people to share with, once a week or once a month. Read together a page of the Gospel or another reading. Pray together with songs, a Bible reading, a long period of silence.
Third Proposal – Share and pray regularly with others

During my visit to Brest, after the celebration of the Eucharist in the Catholic parish, the local community had prepared a prayer with songs from Taizé and invited the parishioners to join. Some young people from one of the Protestant denominations had joined this prayer. After this common prayer, the ones who had sung and played guitar and keyboard were obviously glad to have helped others to pray.

In Grodno, young adults, together with some older people, take part in a monthly reflection group. In this group, people from different Christian denominations also come together.

In our village, our city and our region, there are people who also love Christ, but in a different way than we do. Calling ourselves “Christians” means bearing the name of Christ. We receive our identity as Christians through baptism, which unites us to Christ.
Fourth Proposal – Make the communion among all who love Christ more visible

In Minsk, I was invited by the Greek-Catholic parish for a prayer and a meeting. One of the priests told me afterwards that a friend of his, an Orthodox priest from another region, was thinking of visiting Taizé or one of our meetings. I was impressed by this example of friendship beyond denominational borders.

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If Christians want to follow Christ and let God’s light shine in the world, they cannot remain divided. It is the Holy Spirit who unites us.
Fourth Proposal

I think that this search for Christian unity is strongly connected with our desire to walk in communion alongside the Church leaders of the countries we visit. In this way, the audience with Metropolitan Pawel of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus, was a great blessing. I felt very encouraged by his cordial welcome on the first morning of my stay in Minsk.

The day after, I had also an opportunity, in Grodno, to meet Archbishop Alexander Knasziewicz, who is also the head of the Belarussian Bishop’s Conference. These meetings are for me the sign that the Holy Spirit is already bringing us together.

Leaving Belarus after these visits in several cities, I felt very grateful. In many places, young Christians take on small commitments to let God’s love shine through their lives. I was especially happy to be welcomed, really like a pilgrim, in several families from different denominations. Our Churches are not in full communion, but we can already turn together to Christ.

We can turn together to Christ in a simple prayer, putting ourselves “under one roof” without waiting for everything to be fully harmonized, and in this way we can live in anticipation of full communion.
Fourth Proposal

Last updated: 12 October 2014