Political prisoner in Belarus thinks he has a calling behind bars

09-06-2021

Eastern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis, CNE.news

Interview with Volna Seviarynets on Nasha Niva. Screenshot CNE.news

Even behind bars, the political prisoner Pavel Seviarynets remains a man of prayer. The co-leader of the Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) was sentenced to 7 years in custody late May for organising riots. This week his wife speaks about their life in a lengthy interview on the news site Nasha Niva.

In the interview, Seviarynets' wife Volha tells about Pavel's spiritual life as a man of prayer. When she got to know him, first she didn't realise how much time Pavel spent praying. But he did it "for hours", Volha says. "And now I also pray here when he prays there", in prison.

Seviarynets thinks that the Lord brought him to prison because he is "needed for something" there. His faith in God gives him the strength to survive the harsh prison life behind bars.

Pavel Seviarynets, born in 1976, was detained in June 2020, two months before the controversial re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020. The BCD party, which Seviarynets represents, is not officially registered in Belarus, although the board of the BCD has been trying to do this from 2005 onwards.

Young boy

In the interview, Seviarynets’ wife Volha also gives an insight into how she handles the raising of their three-year-old son Frantsisk. He has missed his father for a year already; still more than five to come. Frantsisk draws paintings for his father and asks his mother "to pray for Dad."

They also visited Pavel in prison together. That was an adventure on its own since Seviarynets is serving in a high-security prison. In the end, Frantsisk said to the guard: "I want my dad to go outside with me."

After coming home, the boy started to play prison. "He drags people into a room, closes the door and says they are in prison, so they will not be released", his mother tells.

Volha is very much aware that the boy should not forget his father. For that reason, they try to send as many letters and drawings as possible and watch videos with Pavel on it.

No change before prayer

According to his wife, Seviarynets expects no change in Belarus until the churches speak out for justice. "He says that the church must set an example", Volha says. "Now Christians live as if nothing happens. Very few churches speak out. They choose to pray for Belarus so that they don't offend anyone. But it should not be so; you feel in your heart what you need to pray for."

Seviarynets is praying all the time, and in all places, also in prison and in court, his wife explains. "At the court hearing, he tells those who went through the same case with him: let's pray. And there were different people, partly unbelievers. But this is Seviarynets! It was raining then. By the time they began to pray, the sun had risen. As soon as they finished praying, it rained again. And everyone said to him: "Pasha, how did you do that?" And Pasha said: "It's not me." He had the revelation that we will come to the point where there will only be prayer left - and nothing else. Therefore, we must pray. There must be great repentance in Belarus. Pasha sees that the Lord is working in hearts, he says. But these huge shifts cannot happen quickly."

Inhumane conditions

Pavel Seviarynets was accused of organising riots. His trial started on May 12th 2021, and took place behind closed doors. On May 25th, he was sentenced to 7 years in prison, the BCD tells in a press release. Together with him, five more activists were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. The BCD believes "the authorities' actions since the moment of Pavel's arrest are illegal". During his pre-trial custody, he was "subjected to pressure and torture from the side of the investigation", the party writes. "The conditions of being in the cell were inhumane; he was repeatedly placed in the isolation ward. During the transportation, unjustified harsh detention measures were used against him, such as being in handcuffs for many hours." During the trial, Pavel could not see his wife and son, and human rights defenders or journalists were allowed in the courtroom either. His case "belongs to a secret protected by law", Viasna Human Rights Center writes.

"The court's verdict is clearly illegal and politically motivated", says the party. "Such treatment by the authorities of political opponents is unacceptable; it contradicts universal human moral norms and requires an immediate response from the international democratic community."

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