An incident involving a punk rock band’s protest of the Orthodox Church has some Russians debating the role of the church in society.
In February, the band performed an impromptu “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior to protest the church’s alleged support of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Three band members were arrested and could be jailed for up to seven years, the newspaper said.
The church insists that it is facing an unprecedented attack from secularists.
“We are under attack by persecutors,” said Patriarch Kirill, who recently led 50,000 people in prayer in defense of the church. “The danger is that blasphemy, derision of the sacred, is put forth as a lawful expression of human freedom, which must be protected in a modern society.”
The band’s defenders, however, say that no laws were broken and that Russian courts are trying to make an example of them to discourage more protests.
“They left peacefully when a priest ordered them to go” said Yevgeny Ikhlov, of the Moscow-based group For Human Rights. “The only violation they committed was of a church rule that no woman can penetrate the altar space. People understand these women have been imprisoned for purely political reasons.”
Patriarch Kirill has also been under public criticism for ostentatious living. Critics say his luxurious apartment in Moscow and expensive Breguet watch reflect poorly on the church’s commitment to help the disadvantaged.