(Source: MJ/Devin Watkins, Vatican News)
Deadly clashes continued into their fourth night across Belarus.
The unrest was set off on Sunday after President Alexander Lukashenko declared victory in the nation’s presidential election with a claimed 80% of the vote after 26 years already in power.
On Wednesday night, a 25-year-old man died in the south-eastern city of Gomel.
Belarus’ Investigative Committee said he had been arrested on Sunday and sentenced to ten days in prison for taking part in protests.
Officials said he fell ill and was taken to hospital where he later died.
But the man’s mother told Radio Free Europe that he was not taking part in any demonstrations but was on his way to see his girlfriend when he was arrested.
She added that her son had heart problems and that he had spent several hours in a police van.
Not the first
He is the second person to have died in the unrest in the last four days.
Reports suggest at least 200 protesters have been wounded in clashes with police.
The UN reports that at least 6,000 people have been detained since Sunday.
Appeal for truth and dialogue
Catholic bishops in Belarus have called for calm and for an open dialogue between protesters and the government.
Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Minsk appealed to all parties to cease acts of violence.
“Do not let the force of violence prevail,” he said, “but rather the strength of argumentation, based on dialogue in trust and mutual love.”
“At this crucial moment in our history, in the name of a God of infinite mercy, love and peace, I call on all parties to the conflict to put an end to the violence”, Kondrusiewicz appealed.
“May their hands, created for peaceful work and fraternal greetings, not be raised with weapons or stones”, the archbishop added, urging the establishment of a round table “to decide the future of our country there and not behind the barricades”.
The Bishop of Vitebsk, Aleh Butkevich, added his voice to the fray.
“There is only one way out of this situation,” he said, “seeking the truth! We must be certain and defend truth, not lies.”
But, he added, “truth cannot be found where there is violence.”
Speaking to the SIR news agency, Father Alexander Ulas, director of the Catholic.by website of the Bishops’ Conference of Belarus, denounced the difficult situation the country is suffering.
“Every afternoon people take to the streets to protest. The violence is increasing. In the streets we see people throwing grenades and burning tires.
“People are angry. The protests have spread throughout the country, not only in Minsk. This is just the beginning. There’s no telling how it will end. All we have left is the strength of prayer for peace.”
Belarus archbishop appeals to government, opposition to “stop the violence” amid protests over presidential election
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