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Posts Tagged ‘Patriarch Maksim’

Heroic Bulgarians deliver message of tolerance
despite right-wing hatred and violence.

Aksinia GenchevaViolence erupted in Sofia at the first Bulgarian pride march on Saturday, leading to the arrest of 88 people, including Boyan Rasate, leader of the Bulgarian National Union.

Bulgarian gay rights organization Gemini organized the event, which drew between 150 and 200 participants and about 1000 observers, including protesters, journalists, and police. Gemini’s Executive Director, Aksinia Gencheva, noted that the first gay pride march in Ireland drew only five participants. Gencheva said Gemini had received letters of support from the British Embassy, the Council of Europe, the Party of European Socialists, and many other organizations and gay rights supporters.

Patriarch MaksimThe parade was opposed by the leader of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Maksim, 93. Maksim, who has been a bishop since 1956, was named Patriarch in 1971 and successfully fought back from a challenge to his authority in the 1990s resulting from accusations that he had been uncanonically appointed Patriarch by the Communist Politburo. The Patriach wrote an open letter to the Mayor of Sofia urging him not to “participate in the fruits of darkness, but counter them,” and demanding that he stop “this shameful and undignified march.” Metropolitan Neofit of Rousse also issued a statement opposing the parade and calling homosexuality a sin.

The Chief Mufti of Bulgaria, Mustafa Alish Hadji, weighed in, too, calling homosexuality “a disease” that “desecrates Bulgarian society and threatens its future” and denouncing gay attempts “impertinently to change the public opinion, and the moral, religious, and traditional values of the Bulgarian society through public happenings like gay parades.”

Boyan RasateBoyan Rasate’s group, the Bulgarian National Union, had proclaimed a “Week of Intolerance” preceding the parade, and had hosted a forum on “How to fight and minimize the damage from homosexuality and pedophilia in Bulgaria.” The group also conducted a campaign against the parade, spreading posters all over Bulgaria saying “Be Intolerant, Be Normal.”

The Bulgarian National Union was formerly affiliated with the right-wing Bulgarian National Attack movement, but split from that group after a power struggle between Rasate and Attack’s leader, Volen Siderov, in late 2005 and early 2006. Both the National Union and Attack are nationalist groups, saying Bulgarian identity is threatened by minorities, including Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Jews, and homosexuals. After the arrests, Attack declined to support Rasate directly, but issued a statement that the police exceeded their authority and claimed that over a hundred protesters were detained and beaten by police.

The city refused to prevent the pride march, but the route of the parade was changed twice, and police put strict security measures in place. Police arrested two minors for throwing a Molotov cocktail with the slogan “Death to Gays” at the beginning of the parade. Violence broke out when protesters armed with brass knuckles, clubs and fireworks tried to rush the marchers; the Ministry of the Interior said 88 people were arrested in all.

Bulgarian Pride, 2008

Gemini had declared a policy of non-violence at the parade, urging participants not to respond to any provocation or attack. Marchers carried a banner with the parade’s motto, Me and my family. Some carried a banner saying, “Be careful who you hate ― it may be someone you love!” In spite of the violence, marchers continued on the Red House for a rally after the parade. Some marchers remained at the Red House for up to 18 hours after the rally, fearful for their safety if they left.

Boyan Rasate has been one of the country’s most vocal critics of homosexuality. Interviewed at the parade before his arrest, Rasate said, “I don’t approve of this parade and we will do anything to prevent it.”

“What do you mean by ‘anything’?” asked the reporter.

“I mean anything,” Rasate replied.

After one of his supporters threw a smoke bomb at a policeman, Rasate was wrestled to the ground by a group of policemen and dragged into the back of a police van, shouting, “Don’t hit me, you scumbag! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me! Don’t hit me!” According to some reports, his little daughter, whom he had brought with him to the parade, was left alone and helpless after his arrest. Police held Rasate for 24 hours before he was released on 500 leva bail. (500 leva = US$403.50 = €255.67.)

“Bulgaria is in the EU now,” said one participant. “People have to accept us like normal human beings. We are not criminals.” Some participants suggested they should have a parade every month or even every week to get the message of tolerance across.

Boyan Rasate at the parade (with English subtitles):

Read more:

BGO Gemini (Bulgarian gay organization)

BGO Gemini history – 1992-2006 (Video)

BGO Gemini’s MySpace

Rightist Extremists Call for Anti-Gay Measures in Bulgaria (Novinite, 22 June 2008.)

Bulgarian ‘Week of Intolerance’ Targets Gays (BalkanInsight, 23 June 2008.)

First Sofia Pride needs adequate protection (Amnesty International, 27 June 2008.)

Bulgaria Head Mufti’s Office Protests Against Gay Parade (Novinite, 27 June 2008.)

88 held during gay parade in Sofia today (FOCUS Information Agency)

About 60 arrested at Bulgaria’s first gay parade (Reuters, 28 June 2008.)

60 people arrested for disrupting Bulgaria’s gay pride march (AFP)

Leader of Attacks against Sofia’s Gay Parade Freed on Bail (Novinite, 29 June 2008.)

Гей парадът започна с арести (Gay parade began with arrests) (News.bg) (Photos)

„Атака”: Полицията превиши правата си на гей парада (“Attack”: police exceeded their rights at gay parade) (News.bg)

Website of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church

Патриарх Максим писа на кмета Борисов да спре гей парада (Patriarch Maksim wrote the mayor to stop gay parade) (Dnevnik)

Митрополит Неофит: Гей парадът е грях (Metropolitan Neofit: Gay parade is a sin) (Pravoslavie.bg)


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