Charter 77 group backs Czech Christians
by Jonathan Petre CHA RTER 77, the Czech human rights movement, has issued a strong condemnation of violations of religious liberty in Czechoslovakia.
In an open letter to the President and other state officials, four members of the group, including Fr Vaclav Maly and Dr Radim Palous, have demanded "a halt to the persecution of believers" and asked that the authorities interpret the law in accordance with the principle of human rights, '"so that the true spirit of the law would not be nullified, but fulfilled."
The letter describes in some detail many of the violations that the Czech authorities have allegedly been perpetrating.
One particularly horrifying case it reports is a violent and sadistic attack by security police on the 24-year-old son of Josef Adamek, a Catholic layman imprisoned recently with several others accused of "illicit trading", in other words, the printing and distributing of religious literature.
According to the letter, Stanislav, Adamek was picked up, in October last year, at his place. of work, by four "unknown" men and taken to nearby woods. There the men threatened him with murder. hit him brutally on the head and poured acid over him.
They then forced him to run in front of their car only to leave him in the wood, about 12 miles from the nearest railway station.
"It is only natural," the letter says, "that such a situation leads to an increasing mistrust of the official proclamation about the creation of a new society in which all are equal, irrespective of their origin and convictions."
In the opening paragraph of the letter, the spokesmen for Charter 77 note that inspite-oU numerous official declarations creating the impression that religious freedom is being respected, the persecution of believers, particularly the campaign against the Catholic Church, has been stepped up.
For example, according to the letter, the freedom to publish religious literature has been greatly curtailed.
Charita, the only remaining Catholic publisher, in 1981 issued only two books, a theological treatise and a hymnbook. And the weekly Katolicke Noviny (Catholic News) is, the letter says, merely a tool of' official propaganda.
The letter reports many cases where the state has interfered or taken control of Church functions and authority. The religious orders, violently dissolved in 1950, have not yet been restored, but the persecution and propaganda against them is being stepped up. The priests are under increasing pressure to join the pro-regime organisation Pacem in Terris, which is not recognised by the Church.
"Matej Lucan, the deputy prime minister, said in Banska Bystrica on the 12 November 1981 that any criticism of Pacem in Terris is an indirect attack on the socialist coexistence between church and state."
The letter lists the names of several priests against whom the authorities have taken action. These include Fr Frantisek Lizna, who was again tried on January 21 this year for "damaging state interests abroad", and Fr Josef Kordik, who received a suspended sentence in September 1981 for continuing to work as a priest after his permit had been illegally revoked.
The official view of religious literature is best expressed, the letter says, by the testomy of Dr Jaroslav Hajek of the Office for Religious Affairs in Praguye. "According to him, the copying o officially printed Biblical texts for any—purpose constitutes a criminal activity, even if it is for private use." The spokesmen for Charter 77 strongly condemn the Czech government's restrictions on religious practice.