HUNDREDS of people gathered on Bratislava’s Hviezdoslavovo Square on March 25 to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the Candle Demonstration which was violently suppressed by the police in 1988. Today it is regarded as one of the most important expressions of public protest against the Czechoslovak communist regime.
The Candle Demonstration emerged from the initiative of church believers who were asking for freedom of religion and for respect of human and civic rights in Czechoslovakia. It sprang from the roots of religious and civic dissent, the secret church, silenced intellectuals and the “No fear” message of Pope John Paul II, the SITA newswire wrote.
František Mikloško, who was one of the organisers of the 1988 demonstration and is now an MP for the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (KDS), said that he belonged to the generation “that was engaged in the secret church and dissent and dreamt about freedom for the church and citizens,” and that he is grateful that his dream has come true, the TASR newswire wrote.
Mikloško, as well as other organisers of the demonstration, were detained by security forces on March 25, 1988, and learned about the brutal police crackdown on the peaceful protesters only after they were released from custody.
“We should never forget what happened so that it is never repeated,” said 80 year-old Oľga Kasanická, one of the participants at the Candle Demonstration, as quoted by SITA. “We should forgive but not forget; andpass the message on to the new generation," she said.