Weekly column from Belarus: Can we accept the repentance of the worst police officer?


Eastern Europe

Zmicier Chviedaruk, CNE.news

The Belarusian police is known for its cruel behaviour against dissidents. Photo AFP, Viktor Drachev

Belarus isn’t very religious, and people don’t like to discuss spiritual matters. But last week, something like a religious atomic bomb hit us, and everyone who is still not afraid to read independent news started discussing the question: does the church look like a tiny club? Does it exist just for good and gentle people? Or is it the right place for the worst sinners ever?

What had happened then? One of the country’s cruellest and most corrupt police officers decided to quit his job and start a small business – he started baking bread. I don’t know what is easier: leave the Italian mafia or the Belarusian police? Mr Hryshchanka started his career in the police force. Soon he was asked to join a particular group that used to participate in political persecution, where his road to glory began.

False testimonies in court

You can only imagine how actively this man started doing his new job. Tasks were very different: from watching and chasing active political people to detaining, arresting, beating inside and outside police offices and, of course –as a cherry on the top– false testimonies in the court. Probably it would be difficult to count how many times this servant of the political regime has done things like that.


Zmicier Chviedaruk was born in Minsk, Belarus, in 1988.

He is member of a Reformed baptist church in that city. But he studies with the neighbours in Kyiv, at the Evangelical-Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU).

Zmicier is married with Anna and together, they raise a cat. He has authored the book “Reformation at all costs” about the history of the Reformed Church in Belarus in the 16th century. He likes reading, and listening to old-school rock from 80-90’s and plays in amateur football team “Libertas”.

As a protesting teenager, I’ve met Hryshchanka more than once. And I have felt the pain from his punches several times and think I can differentiate his punches from others with blind eyes. This man had a scary face, and it was impossible even to look into his eyes because they were dark and deep. Whenever you tried to call for his conscience, he answered by shouting that he was a real Orthodox and his service to the President is his service to God, and God will forgive him because of his police position. It seems to be a rather broadly-spread police theology in Belarus nowadays.

Hardly to recognise

Schermafbeelding 2022-08-26 om 15.14.29.png
Hryshchanka in the media. Screenshot from Nashna Niva
So, you may imagine the reaction of the liberal society when the news was posted (with a photo) that Major Hryshchanka had quit his office and joined a local Evangelical church. On the picture, there was a man you could hardly recognise. A smiling man with a beard in a white baker’s suit. And the most interesting for me was it was as if I saw his eyes for the first time.

Critics started arguing that there is no reason for joy. Many people commented that they don’t believe in such repentances, that God cannot forgive people that have done so much evil, and that church shouldn’t open its doors for Hryshchanka, even if he gives all the bread as a present. The others said that ex-policemen should enter prison before entering the church. So, it appeared to be interesting how many people started to think about limits for God’s grace, forgiveness and the nature of the Church.

Must this man stay unforgiven?

But the questions asked online were rather reasonable. Can such a man change? Is it possible to overcome everything he has done and become a baker? Can the corrupted policeman avoid judgement and live peacefully? Can Hryshchanka hide inside the church, or must he stay unforgiven forever?

Also, for me, this question suddenly appeared to be rather tricky. Theoretically, the answer is easy, but practically, it is complicated. It’s easy to forgive or think about judgement for people that offended others but not you.

The Bible reminds us that we all are under God’s judgement after the fall in The Garden. We became enemies of God and each other. Our hearts became corrupted, and even our good deeds can become another brick in the wall between the holy God and us – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3,23).

Not rely on court

Major Hryshchanka has committed many crimes against people and is worthy to stand in court and say in a loud voice what he has done. It could probably show someone’s faith and commitment to the Gospel and Christ’s command to repent in another country. But in Belarus, for now, you cannot rely on justice in the court.

The Scripture tells us that for some reason, God calls different people from different nations to the church. The thing that is common to all of them is that they are real sinners who, by God’s grace, were redeemed and saved. The apostle Peter proclaims that Christ has suffered for sinners (1 Petre 3,18), and the apostle Paul reminds us that in Christ only there is forgiveness for sinners: “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the gift following many trespasses brought justification” (Romans 5,16)

Great testimony of the Gospel

So, we must say that the story of Hryshchanka is an excellent testimony of the power of the Gospel and what God has done for us in Christ. There is hope for people, even “the worst of sinners”.

I hope this story will help ministers in our country to speak freely about God’s judgment, grace and sin of men and remind people that the church isn’t a tiny club for good people. Still, it looks like a hospital for different kinds of sinners, which shows the amazing beauty of the Gospel that reconciled people with God and can even reconcile the worst political enemies that from now worship their Amazing Savior for His amazing Grace together.



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