October 8, 2010

Serbian Church Condemns Violence Against Gay Activists

A man walks past posters reading, "We are expecting you" against a gay pride parade, in Belgrade in 2009. The second ever gay pride parade in Belgrade planned for this Sunday will be a test of Serbia's maturity as a democracy, a representative of the OSCE said Thursday.

October 8, 2010
Associated Press

The Serbian Orthodox Church on Friday for the first time condemned violence against gay activists, even though it remained staunchly opposed to the staging of a gay pride march this weekend.

Public condemnation of anti-gay violence by the influential church is important for Serbia's embattled gays, who face harassment in the predominantly conservative Balkan country.

Right-wing groups have threatened violence against organizers and participants of the Sunday march in Belgrade. They argue that gay events are contrary to Serbian values.

Extremists broke up a pride march in 2001 and forced the cancellation of last year's event.

The church said that inciting or resorting to "violence, allegedly in the name of God or the Christian church ... is absolutely inadmissible and contrary to Christian values."

"Violence does not cure or defeat evil, only helps spread it," the Holy Synod said in a statement.

In the past, the church had lashed out at gay activism. Hardline Bishop Amfilohije has said that gay activists themselves provoke violence by extremists.

The holding of the march is viewed as a test for Serbia which is seeking EU membership. Authorities have promised to ensure security for the gathering in downtown Belgrade.