Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka clearly has a little meeting anxiety this week.
The word is that EU leaders are already constructing elaborate strategies
to avoid an impromptu handshake with "Europe's last dictator" at the EU summit in Prague on May 7. (It's also possible that the invitation to Belarus was on condition that Lukashenka send someone else.)
But Lukashenka being Lukashenka yesterday launched a preemptive strike
, accusing Czech President Vaclav Klaus (the Czechs currently hold the EU presidency) of being "bad-mannered."
Last week Klaus had said that he wouldn't shake hands with Lukashenka or receive him at Prague Castle.
In a speech to parliament Lukashenka said, "if anybody will be made uncomfortable on May 7 by Belarus's presence then don't invite us."
He also mentioned "a certain top Czech official who said, 'I will not extend my hand to him,'" a likely reference to Klaus.
But the EU shindig isn't the only big meeting. On April 27, Lukashenka is meeting the pope
in the Vatican as part of the papacy's attempt to reach out to the Orthodox world. (Incidentally, Lukashenka calls himself an "Orthodox atheist.")
In advance of the papal meeting, our Belarus Service asked readers, if they were the pope, what they would say to Lukashenka. Here are some of their responses:
I would ask Lukashenka the following 10 questions:
1. Why do you lie to your compatriots? Why don’t you live honestly?
2. Why don’t you respect the language and culture of the Belarusian people?
3. Why do you cling to power?
4. Where are the "disappeared" compatriots?
5. Are you delighted to sign edicts on executions by shooting?
6. Where is Irina Abelskaya, the mother of your third son? What is she doing?
7. Why haven’t you divorced Halina?
8. Why do you authorize beatings of women and children in the streets and squares of Belarusian cities by uniformed and plain-clothes thugs?
9. Why don’t you respect the equality of religions? Why do you persecute non-Orthodox believers?
10. Do you know the meaning and purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two conventions on civic, political, and social human rights that were signed by Belarus?
I'd say: " Remember Apostle Paul's words, if they bad-mouth you, bless them, and continue to serve your people and don't pay attention to self-proclaimed "teachers" of democracy.
I would advise the pope to wash his hands well after the meeting.
Alyaksandr, erect as many Catholic churches as you have erected Russian Orthodox ones, plus one Uniate church, and you will get to Paradise!
Everyone is mortal, including you. Haste to do Good not according to your understanding, but according to God’s.
Meanwhile, some things change, while others remain the same. A young activist in the Belarusian city of Brest has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for placing a toilet next to a monument of Lenin on the Soviet leader's birthday, April 22.
Originally the activist was charged with vandalizing the monument, but later the accusation was changed to hooliganism since the statue was not damaged.
-- Luke Allnutt/Alexander Lukashuk