Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Who Knew...

What do Evangelical Christians and Fundamentalist Muslims have in common with Russian Orthodox Christians?

Give up?

The Moscow Procurator’s Office has indicted Yuri Samodurov, Ludmila Vasilovskaya and Anna Mihalchuk under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, accusing them of actions "intended to incite hatred and hostility toward a group of people and to humiliate them on the basis of their national identity or their religion."

Human rights advocates have sought in vain the application of Article 282 against fascists and all kinds of Black-Hundred types and racists. Instead, it is now used against people of democratic conviction, museum employees and a poet, who are charged with the organization and conduct of the exhibition "Caution! Religion". The concept of the exhibition - to give artists an opportunity to freely express their ideas concerning the problems of religion and also concerning the positive and the negative sides of the activity of religious institutions -was suggested by the exhibition’s curator and participant, Mr. Zulumyan, a citizen of Armenia. The exhibition, which displayed works of more than forty artists (including persons from Armenia, Germany, Georgia, Cuba, the USA and Japan), lasted for only four days in January 2003. On the fifth day a group of Russian Orthodox fanatics wrecked it. The majority of works were destroyed or damaged, and some that the Procurator’s Office took from the artists have still not been returned.

[. . .]

This constitutes a direct attempt by the Moscow Patriarchy’s Department of Foreign Relations to regulate secular culture and to "privatize" images of Christ, the Holy Mother, and the saints despite the fact that for centuries their images have been the property not just of the Christian churches and Christian believers, but of all civilized people, including atheists, Buddhists, Confucianists, and others, who may not believe that Christ was the Son of God or even that he was an historic personage, but nevertheless consider his image very important and significant for world culture and for themselves personally. These images are used in business as well.

[. . .]

It seems that the Russian Orthodox Church, as part of civil society, should not try to dominate its other parts, but should find and support more appropriate and modern ways to resolve the problems of religion in a secular state. In particular, it is desirable and should be possible for the religious and secular institutions of civil society to collaborate in order to find solutions to such urgent and acute problems as ending the bloodshed in Chechnya, reducing social inequality, lowering hostility towards migrants, assisting disabled persons and war veterans, defending the rights of communicants of other faiths, supporting modern religious art, and so on. As to works of art and exhibitions strongly opposed by the Church, it would not be difficult to solve this problem if good will existed - priests could recommend to their parishioners not to attend such exhibitions, while museums and curators could specify which exhibitions contain works that make use of religious symbols in unconventional ways, and suggest that persons who may be upset by this should avoid these exhibitions.

As to that last paragraph . . . that would completely miss the point of contemporary religion, now wouldn't it? *sigh*

This was, surprisingly, the first I'd heard of this.