The future of a nation belongs to young people. They are a country's strategic resource. According to the Belarusian legislation, any citizen aged from 14 to 31 is considered young. Young people account for over one-fourth of the Belarusian population, or 2.6 million. On reaching 16, young people are awarded a passport of the citizen of the Republic of Belarus.
As of the end of 2009 there were 15 political parties, 893 republican and international public associations, 1,332 local public associations. There are also 35 trade unions, 22 unions and associations, 84 funds in the Republic of Belarus.
The biggest of them is the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus (FTUB) - the single national trade union center, the national voluntary independent association of industry trade unions. All in all the Federation includes more than 4 million members.
The FTUB is a member of the International Trade Union Confederation; represents the workers of Belarus in the International Labor Organization; cooperates with many trade union centers in the CIS, Europe, Asia and America.
Other public associations, most of them (about 500) deal with physical development and sport.
There are 350 charity organizations. The most notable is the Belarusian Charity and Health Foundation, which is a member of the International Charity and Health Foundation and the European Union of Charity Societies.
There is a vibrant youth movement in Belarus: there are 156 youth organizations, including 23 children's organizations. The biggest of them are the Belarusian National Youth Union (BRYU) and the Belarusian National Pioneer Organization. The BRYU unites over 485,000 young men and women; the pioneer organization includes more than 580,000 children and teenagers.
There are 144 veteran organizations in Belarus, who take an active part in the social life of the country. Sixty-nine public organizations are engaged in environmental protection.
As for other public associations, 104 of them are involved in science and technology, 98 unite national minorities, 39 art unions, 34 women's organizations, several public associations for protecting historical and cultural heritage.
In 2007, following the initiative of the general public, a national public movement Belaya Rus was set up to help unite the progressive forces of society who are interested in building a strong and prosperous Belarus, socially just society guided by the patriotic moral values of the Belarusian people.
Over the last decades the religious and ethnic self-awareness of the Belarusian people has considerably heightened, the denomination factor has gained prominence in the socio-political life of the society. Democratization of social life has largely added to these developments. Religion has started to be regarded as an incentive in reviving spiritual foundations and national traditions of the society.
Most religious organizations promote interconfessional dialogue, seek to preserve the traditions of tolerance in the society. The state policy is aimed at supporting traditional denominations, improving their material conditions. Strengthening interconfessional accord in the Belarusian society is among priority objectives of the Office for Religions and Nationalities which plays the role of a research and coordinating center and a supervisory body. The Freedom of Consciousness and Religious Organizations Law has passed international expert appraisal and has been recognized as compliant with international standards.
In early 2010 a total of more than 25 religious denominations functioned in Belarus with over 3,000 religious organizations.
Orthodoxy is the most ancient Christian denomination which spread across the territory of Belarus. The first Orthodox eparchy - the Polotsk eparchy was founded in 992.
Founded in 1989, the Belarusian exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church comprises eleven Orthodox eparchies (Brest, Minsk, Polotsk, Mogilev, Pinsk, Gomel, Grodno, Novogrudok, Vitebsk, Turov, and Bobruisk eparchies). Another official name of the Belarusian exarchate is the Belarusian Orthodox Church. It is governed by the Council of Church (Synod) whose head is Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.
As of early 2010 there were 1,509 Orthodox communities and 1,315 Orthodox churches in Belarus, with another 152 under construction. The 1990s witnessed the revival of religious organizations. As of early 2009 there were over 60 orthodox associations in Belarus, including monasteries, brotherhoods, sisterhoods and charity and education centers.
Catholicism is one of Belarus's traditional religions. It started spreading widely in the territory of Belarus at the end of the fourteenth century; it contributed considerably to the formation of the characteristic features of Belarusian cultural traditions.
The rise in the number of Catholic communities observed in Belarus over the past decade has prompted the reorganization of the management structure of the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus. By now, four dioceses have been established in Belarus - the Vitebsk, Grodno, Pinsk and Minsk-Mogilev Dioceses. In November 2007 Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz was appointed head of the Minsk-Mogilev Diocese.
As of early 2010 there were 470 registered Roman-Catholic communities and 462 Roman-Catholic churches in Belarus, with another 28 under construction.
The forms of Protestantism, Lutheranism and Calvinism have been known in Belarus since the sixteenth century. Today there are 27 registered Lutheran communities in Belarus, with most of the believers being ethnic Germans.
The religious movement of Evangelical Christians was established in Belarus in 1988 after their union with Evangelical Christians-Baptists had dissolved. The Evangelical Christians denomination has its own organizational structure. In terms of the number of followers, this is Belarus's biggest Protestant organization. As of early 2010, there were 501 communities of Evangelical Christians and 272 Baptist communities in Belarus. There are also nine communities of the Apostolic Christian Church, 72 communities of the Belarusian Confederation of Seventh-day Adventists, 55 communities of the Full Gospel Christian Church, and 26 communities of the Association of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The Uniate (Union) Church is one of Belarus's Christian religious movements (Greek-Latin, Greek-Catholic, Orthodox-Catholic and Belarusian faith). In 1596 the Brest Synod officially announced the Union of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. According to the Uniate, the Belarusian Orthodox Church acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope but preserved eastern customs and traditions. There are 14 Uniate communities in Belarus.
The Judaism followers appeared in Belarus in the ninth-thirteenth centuries. The largest increase in the Jewish population was seen in Belarus between the second half of the seventeenth and the first half of the eighteenth century. Jews were settling in big and medium-sized towns and in villages depending on their professions and activities. The active revival of Judaism, which started in the
1990s, has been slowed down by emigration and an internal religious split. As of early 2010 there were 46 Jewish communities and 7 synagogues functioning in Belarus, another two under construction.
Islam spread in Belarus in between the fourteenth and sixteen centuries mainly due to the Grand Dukes of Lithuania who invited Tatars-Muslims from the Crimea and the Golden Horde to protect the frontiers of the State. Beginning from the fourteenth century, the Tatars were offered ranks and positions in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the end of the sixteenth century there were more than 100,000 Tatars in Belarus and Lithuania.
Today the local Tatars are the followers of the Sunni branch of Islam. Most of the Belarusian Tatars (especially the younger generation) do not know well the dogmas of their faith. The cultural-religious elite of the Tatars like the idea of the Belarusian national rebirth and take an active part in this process. The Shiite branch of Islam is professed by the Diaspora of Azerbaijanis and Iranians by birth.
As of early 2010 there were 25 Muslim communities in Belarus, with the biggest number of them (eight) registered in Grodno Oblast. There are six mosques in Belarus; another mosque is being constructed in Minsk.
New Religious Trends
The wave of religious revival in Belarus has spurred the emergence of new religious trends. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and the Baha'i Faith Organization have registered their communities in Belarus (6 and 5 communities respectively).