The crackdown on LGBT rights in Russia continues to gain momentum. At two protests in Moscow on Sunday, activists demonstrated against the laws that criminalise all positive representations of homosexuality – dubbed “homosexual propaganda” – which are now in effect in 5 Russian cities. (For more on this story read The Trend for Anti-Gay Laws in Russia and Pro-LGBT Activists Arrested.) The activists were attacked by members of the Russian Orthodox Church, who punched the demonstrators, ripped the rainbow flags from their hands and trampled them in front of the cameras. Police arrested nearly all of the demonstrators for the “unsanctioned” protests, whilst leaving nearly all of their attackers untouched.
It is not democracy if a protest has to be “sanctioned” by the authorities. The right to protest is a cornerstone in the idea of a just society. (This is something the UK’s Conservative Government needs to be reminded of as it cracks down on the right to protest against the 2012 Olympics.) The peaceful protests were broken by violent agitators from the Church, and this was sanctioned by the state police. The leader of the protest, Nikolai Alexeyev, was arrested for talking to journalists. The”unsanctioned” attack on the demonstrators was in effect endorsed.
As the power of the Russian Orthodox Church continues to increase, rights across the board are under threat. Its leaders trumpet Christian values but ignore its precepts. In Ephesians, 4:31-32, it is written, “Let all bitterness, wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice, and be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” And if it turns out that, in the afterlife, homosexuality is a sin against God, I would remind the Orthodox Church of a line from Romans 12:19, quoted by great Russian novelist Tolstoy in the epigraph to Anna Karenina: “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”.