Parliament does not recognise the ancient Baltic Romuva as a religious community

The Flag of the Romuva Pagan religion. Wikipedia
The Flag of the Romuva Pagan religion. Wikipedia

The Parliament has once again sent the ancient Baltic Romuva community to the knockout stage, once again denying it the status of a state-recognised religious community. This time, although the ideological opponents – the Peasants and the Freedom Party – favour granting the status did not help, Eglė Šepetytė is writing at news portal.

Moreover, Romuva members felt insulted by what they heard in the Parliamentary hall – the conservative Abramikienė quoted the Russian ideologist Dugin and linked the Baltic community to the Kremlin. Other opponents shout that the ancient Balts are not a religion. Romuva again promises to seek the intercession of the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.

The ancient Baltic Romuva community has been trying to convince the Parliament of the European Parliament for more than a decade that their prayers and rituals are a religion. As a result, Romuva seeks to have politicians grant it the status of a state-recognised religious community. The Catholic Church and its sympathetic parliamentarians oppose this. However, neither the ancient Baltic confessors nor some of the nation’s elected representatives expected what they heard at the last session of the Seimas.

“I remember one book – the 1995 book “The Geopolitical Future of Russia” by the now oft-mentioned Putin ideologue Alexander Dugin. As a young politician, I read it, and I have not forgotten the page where it says that one of the biggest enemies of the Kremlin in Lithuania is the Catholic Church,” says conservative Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė.

According to Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė, the Kremlin supports anyone who does not support Christianity. Thus, the conservative also associates Romuva with the Kremlin.

“My colleagues’ doubts about certain links and possible support from the other side in the last parliamentary term had a concrete basis. The theory of the Kremlin ideologue Dugin. Therefore, when I vote, I will not be able to forget Dugin and his calls to weaken Christianity in Lithuania,” says V. Aleknaitė-Abramikienė.

Romuvan Pagan Ceremony in Lithuania, Wikipedia
Romuvan Pagan Ceremony in Lithuania, Wikipedia

“Last term, this project was discussed by the NSGK because of such statements and such allegations. It is not possible to stir up the public if there is no reason to do so,” says Vytautas Bakas, a member of “Vardan Lietuvos”.

“We feel insulted and humiliated. There is a war going on, and in the face of war, the arguments of Putin’s ideologue are being used”, says Inija Trinkūnienė, a Romuva cryer.

Dugin’s arguments or otherwise, the Seimas has again, by a three-vote margin, denied Romuva it is status. The Christian Democrats continue to repeat that the ancient Baltic faith is not a religion.

“The Romuva community is more of an ethnocultural phenomenon than a religious community,” says conservative Paulius Saudargas.

Romuva’s Krivi Inija Trinkūnienė stresses that only the community itself can decide on its faith. Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights has already made the same point in black and white, ruling in favour of the community.

“These are their gods, and these are their rituals and beliefs. Naturally, members of Parliament cannot discuss this. We are, in fact, the true holders of tradition, the true traditionalists”, says Trinkūnienė.

“This is the opinion of the members of the Parliament, but they have to follow the criteria laid down in the law. I don’t like many things either, I don’t like Aleknaitė-Abramikienė either, but I don’t think she shouldn’t work in the Parliament just because I don’t like something,” says Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, a member of the Freedom Party.

“Let this be considered my emotional reaction to the book, even a very individual and subjective one. I said that I couldn’t forget it, and I will vote accordingly”, says V. Aleknaitė-Abramikienė.

So it appears that Lithuania has yet another case similar to the story of Rolandas Paksas, where the Parliament only allowed him to run for elected office again after impeachment when Brussels forced him to.

“Neither Paksas nor Romuva has any sympathy for me, but the ECHR’s decisions must be respected,” says conservative Kęstutis Masiulis.

“Romuva intends to appeal again to both the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe. If granted the status of a religious community, the ancient Baltic weddings would become equivalent to marriages performed in civil registry offices. Social security would cover the clergy, and Romuva would be entitled to a land tax rebate.

“As many have declared, there are Catholics and Christians here. They really voted only because they have no other gods but me. That is God’s commandment. This is probably why we voted the way we did,” says Rita Tamashunienė, a Group of the Regions member.

“We will table this bill again because it is very clearly stated that a religious community meets all the criteria laid down in the law, and the Parliament has not formulated any arguments why it should not be granted this recognition,” says Raskevičius.

“The Romuva issue is probably the only one on which the Party of Freedom and the current or former Peasants agree. The Parliament of Karbauskis tried to grant Romuva status.

“I am very worried that we are in a very awkward situation where the European Council of Ministers will have to take the same measures as in the Paksas case, namely to strengthen the supervision of the implementation of the case,” says Širinskienė.

According to a census conducted 11 years ago, 5,000 Lithuanians identify themselves as belonging to the ancient Baltic faith, but Trinkūnienė thinks that the number may exceed 10,000. People are increasingly turning back to their pagan roots.

“Every community has its own leader, who performs both the wedding and the blessing of the child,” Trinkūnienė says.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Lithuania had violated the European Convention on Human Rights because it had not dealt with Romuva’s application objectively.

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