On May 22, 2023, it became known that a Catholic priest from Navagrudak, Dzmitry Malets, had been called up to transport troops less than a month before the end of his age of conscription. Catholic priests had never been conscripted into the army before in Belarus, the same as Orthodox priests, – they had always been exempted from military service.
Dzmitry Malets is going to turn 27 on June 18, 2023, that is, he won’t be subject to call-up for compulsory military service according to the Belarusian legislation anyway. Nevertheless, in May he was informed by the military conscription and enlistment office that he would soon be sent to the army: on May 22, 2023, there even was held a sermon at the Catholic church on that regard. By the way, the 26-year-old Dzmitry Malets received his first draft notice back in April, 2023, and the second on – on May 22, 2023.
In the past years, the vicar was also formally considered to be liable to military service, but every time, as a priest, he was exempted from it by Lukashenka’s order. This year no such order was issued. Authors of the website Katolik.life, who reported on this situation, assumed that the “conscription of a priest into transport troops is probably motivated by the fact that it is not obligatory to take up arms in that type of military forces. As a rule, the soldiers there carry out road works”. In fact, they are used as a free workforce, that is, they became state slaves at the moment of their conscription.
Rev. Dzmitry was ordained priest in 2020, he is serving not only in Navagrudak, but also works with the believers in the village of Lubcha. In the conditions of lack of priests, the possible conscription of the vicar can become a huge problem for the parish and violate the right of the parishioners for freedom of belief. After the news on Dzmitry’s conscription to the army had spread around the Catholic community of Belarus, a lot of believers came to pray for the vicar to remain in the parish.
However, the next day, thanks to the media noise raised around the situation, the conscription and enlistment office changed the decision. Yury Zheharyn, the abbot of the parish where Dzmitry serves, informed the community that Dzmitry Malets would not be drafted into the army. According to the abbot, in the morning of May 23, 2023, the vicar arrived to the military conscription and enlistment office of Lida, and was sent to Grodno from there, where it turned out that a decision had been made not to conscript the priest.
Already on May 24, 2023, the Belarusian Catholic priest Dzmitry Malets talked to the journalists. For some reason, however, he chose the Russian propagandist media working in Belarus, Sputnik Belarus.
In particular, Dzmitry said:
– Today I have not been conscripted into the army, but the story is not over yet. During the last draft commission in Grodno, I complained about my health, about my blood pressure. The conscription and enlistment office knew I have health issues. I was sent for medical examination. Right now, I am at the cardiac health centre in Grodno.
For now, it is not known whether I am fit for military service or not because of my health condition. The doctors are going to make an accurate diagnose after medical examination is completed. If the doctors conclude that I am fit for the military service and I am dismissed from the hospital before May, 30, than I might as well be conscripted. If the examination takes more time, and the diagnosis is not known by the end of May, then I will not be drafted, as the time of the spring conscription will be over, and then I am turning 27 on June, 18.
I hope for this story with my conscription to end well, and that I will be able to continue my service in the church. We are serving the God anyway, so, compulsory military service is not obligatory for salvation of our soles.
The military conscription and enlistment office of Navagrudak did not comment to reporters on the attempt to conscript a serving priest to compulsory military service. Nevertheless, it is known, as the issue has been talked about at different forums, that according to the unofficial information, they are planning to conscript also Orthodox priests to compulsory military service as well.
For our part, Our House reminds you that the right not to take up arm and not to serve in the army is a basic human right which must be observed unconditionally.