April 18, 1979 Document No. 12

To:   The United Nations UNESCO organization's

International Conference: "For the Peace and Happy Future of All Children."

Violations of Children's Rights in the Lithuanian SSR

On behalf of the faithful and priests of Lithuania, we thank UNESCO for proclaiming 1979 the International Year of the Child. All the world's people of good will have responded to the urging to assure children all rights and provide proper conditions for them to grow and DEVELOP INTO VALUABLE BUILDERS OF THE FUTURE.

We are best acquainted with the living conditions of children in the Lithuanian SSR and therefore wish to inform UNESCO of them in this letter.

In our country, it is customary to quote Lenin's words: "The best of everything for children!" One example used to illus­trate the great concern shown children is the fact that the Soviet Union has 120,000 permanent nursery schools which care for over 13 million children. In fact, the children of the Lithuanian SSR are not dying of starvation and have the opportunity for education, but here, as is rare elsewhere in the world, children are deprived of many of their basic rights.

In Soviet Lithuania it is usual to speak out about innocent chil­dren dying in wars somewhere and the fact there are countries where children are dying of starvation, but the fact that the murder of unborn life is legal in this country is passed over in silence. Although no official statistics are released, Lithuania's doctors assert that some 50,000 unborn children, i.e. as many as are born, are murdered every year in our homeland. For a nation as small as Lithuania, this is a terrifying number. The child's basic right is to be born. It is difficult to expect those who deprive him of this right to grant other rights necessary to the child's development.

The Lithuanian SSR produces an excessive amount of alcoholic beverages—annual consumption amounts to some one half billion rubles. As a result, many parents are alcoholics and their children are born physically impaired. Alcoholism causes a sharp rise in the dissolution of marriages and as a consequence it is the children who suffer the most. No nursery school and no baby-sitter can replace a child's father or mother. At present, one of the most vital tasks in fighting for children's rights is to reduce to a minimum the production of alcoholic beverages in Lithuania and use the most effective measures to fight spreading alcoholism, such a nature as Lithuania has never before experienced, except during the era of the Czarist Russia. It is very unfortunate that thus far the Soviet govern­ment has not allowed temperance societies to operate.

In this document, we wish to stop at greater length at the question of how children are prevented from developing spiritually in the Lithuanian SSR.

    The children of the Lithuanian SSR do not have the right to be raised in keeping with their parents' beliefs. From earliest infancy, nursery schools instill atheism in the children of believing parents, even if the parents do not wish it. Godless education continues in the middle schools and in the schools of higher learning atheism courses are already required. Unless they pass a course in Marxist atheism, believing students cannot graduate. In schools believing children are forced to speak, write, draw and act against their conscience, and if such children refuse to carry out the demands of atheist teachers, they are given failing marks or lower deport­ment grades. No one consults believing parents whether they consent to have their children given an atheist education—it is done forcibly, on the pretext that atheism is progress and religion is backward­ness.

The children of the Lithuanian SSR are deprived of nearly all means of learning about religion and gaining a deeper Christian outlook. During 34 years of Soviet government in Lithuania not a single catechism has been printed, nor a single religious book from which children might learn the basics of Christianity. It is true that a New Testament was published, but because of its small printing—11,000 copies (of which many of these precious books were sent abroad)—children do not have access to it. Meanwhile, all school textbooks are seeped in biased and often slanderous ideas against religion, the Church, the clergy. Book stores and libraries overflow with inferior atheist books and brochures. For instance, during 1960-1977 some 250 atheist titles were published in Lithuania (P. Misutis,Religion, the Church, Atheism, 1978, p. 136).

In schools, believing children are forced to join the atheist Pioneer and Communist Youth organizations. Those who do not wish to join are intimidated, kept after school, given lower deportment grades. A vivid example of such terrorization is the Stebuliai Grammar School (Rayon of Lazdijai) where certain teachers use inquisition-type methods to enroll students in godless organizations.

Those who do not join the Communist Youth League are pre­vented from enrolling in schools of higher education. Those who are forcibly enrolled in atheist organizations are forced to speak against their own and their parents' convictions. Children are thus emotionally traumatized and are taught to be hypocrites. The result of such "education" is wide-spread nihilism and delinquency among teenagers and young people; the number of young offenders is constantly on the increase.

    Believing school children are persecuted for attending church.

Their religious beliefs are held against them in schools, they are ridiculed, drawn in caricature, even given lower deportment grades. For instance, in 1979 at the end of the second trimester at the Kybartai Middle School (Rayon of Vilkaviškis) students Rima Abraitytė, Roma ir Rita Griškaitytės, Audronė Juraitė, Rima Žiemelytė and other girls, who are believers and also good students, were given lower deportment grades just because they attended church and did not join atheist organizations. Similar cases occur in the majority of Lithuanian schools.

Schools create a terrible atmosphere of intolerance toward believing children. After hearing nothing but slander against religion, non-believing students terrorize believing children. For instance, Vytautas and Teresė Semenauskas tell how their son Vitalijus is persecuted at the First Middle School in Plungė. Communist Youth members Kačerginskas, Malakauskas and Šakinis ridicule the believing Vitalijus and have beaten him. When the mother complained to the principal, he stated that such a mother should be deprived of her rights as a mother!

Believing children are prevented from performing religious rites. It is very common in the Lithuanian SSR for teachers to chase from the church believing children who have come to pray for a friend's deceased father or mother. Soviet educators behave in this manner throughout Lithuania.

Under Soviet law, any form of religious instruction of children is forbidden. Only parents have the actual right to teach their chil­dren religion within the family circle. The following priests have been imprisoned for instructing children: Juozas Zdebskis, Pros-poras Bubnys, Antanas Šeškevičius. In its May 12, 1966 decree, the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the Lithuanian SSR forbids teaching children about religion. Children thereby suffer brutal discrimina­tion because they are deprived of proper preparation for religious life.

Believing children under eighteen years of age are forbidden to participate in religious rites: Choir, procession or Holy Mass. For participating, children are scolded and threatened, and priests are punished by fines. The pastor of Valkininkai, Father Algimantas Keina, punished twice for allowing children to serve at Holy Mass. Even state security organs interrogate children who serve at Holy Mass, for example in Telšiai, Kybartai, Veisiejai, etc. Over a period of several months in 1979, an eighth-grade student named Judeikis at the Veisiejai Middle School was interrogated three times by security police officials.

Every year believing children are forced to fill out special questionnaires which check on the devoutness of students. There are cases of believing children being officially recorded in schools like actual criminals. This was done in 1978 at the Donelaitis Middle School in Kybartai (Rayon of Vilkaviškis)

Reference letters for religious students often mention their religious beliefs and they thereby find it more difficult to enter schools of higher education. This is done in all the schools of Lithuania.

Recently, another distressing example of discrimination against children has come to light. State security police officials are trying to persuade believing children, without their parents' knowledge, to cooperate with the security police by providing information it requires. This has happened in Telšiai, Kybartai, Veisiejai, Šla­vantai and elsewhere. Children are being morally crippled.

We wish to stress that the above-named instances of discrimina­tion against believing children are not random blunders by isolated godless teachers or government officials, but a coordinated campaign against the religious beliefs of children. This campaign is instigated and directed by the Ministry of Education and party organs.

We hear on the radio that UNESCO is concerned about starving, abandoned and illiterate children. There is great danger in ignoring the greatest crime against children, i.e., their moral crippling and corruption, by depriving them of the conditions to develop and grow in keeping with their beliefs.

We therefore ask UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Year of the Child, to make public and condemn discrimination against believing children in the Lithuanian SSR. We assume full respons­ibility for the accuracy of the facts submitted and are prepared to illustrate with countless examples the deplorable situation in which the children of Lithuania presently find themselves.

Members of the Catholic Committee

for the Defense of the Rights of believers:

Rev. Alfonsas Svarinskas Rev. Sigitas Tamkevičius Rev. Vincas Velavičius Rev. Juozas Zdebskis