Intellectuals join Catholic priest in his criticism of Communism

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A group of politicians, actors and intellectuals have joined Father Vojtech Protivinsky in his warning against the Communist Party. On the basis of charges put forward by the local district committee of the Communists, the Catholic priest is being charged for leaflets he had printed during the Senate elections last year in which he called on his parishioners not to vote for the Communist candidate. The signatories to the petition say that they agree that Communists should not be trusted when they claim that they stand for freedom. They sent millions of innocent people to concentration camps for their convictions, and should Father Protivinsky be tried for having said so publicly, they, too want to be tried. The petition has been signed by famous personalities - the chairperson of the Freedom Union, Hana Marvanova, actress Tana Fischerova, and numerous others, including businessman and former student leader Jan Bubenik. Olga Szantova asked him how the group had come together.

"The people you named have known each other at least for the past twelve years. Most of them met during the Velvet Revolution in 1889 and remained in contact. After we heard what the priest was accused of, and it coincided with the state holiday on the 17th of November, we thought it was so ridiculous and so unbelievable that the Communist Party could use that part of the law to accuse the priest of hatred and basically imposing on his right to free speech, we thought something ought to be done. We couldn't believe that now again somebody could be persecuted just for expressing his beliefs and his views."

This does come at a time when we do not seem to be able to punish those who were the most militant activists of the old Communist regime.

"You know, the current Communist Party has never apologized to the victims. They have never admitted that they continue in the legacy of the Communist Party before 1989. And it's very difficult to go to the archives and get witnesses, many of them have died and lots of documents have been lost or shredded. So, if you want to establish the rule of law, you have to have a due process and legal proceedings. And that's what everybody is trying to do, but it's very difficult to punish those who were leading the Communist regime. On the other hand, I believe that there was a lack of political will to actually do so."

How do you see the future of the case with Father Protivinsky?

"I believe that the charges will be dropped. That would be the most logical and natural way of making the end of this. What we have said in the petition is that we are basically signing the same type of leaflet and that we believe the same things and that if he is being charged and persecuted that we should be, too. But, on the other hand, I think that the first thing I said, that the charges will be dropped and that will be the end of the story."

Do you see other joining your petition?

"We would welcome people to join it, since it is such a ridiculous charge that it has to infuriate lots of people who still do remember what was happening here twelve years ago. Father Protivinsky should not be punished for advising his parishioners how he feels they should be choosing their Senator. I believe this is regular democracy working and I think the charge should definitely be dropped."

Author: Olga Szantová
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