Poland, May 10, 2019
Photo: wikimedia.org Polish police briefly detained 51-year-old Elzbieta Podlesna on Monday for profaning the internationally-venerated Mother of God of Częstochowa Icon, commonly known as the “Black Madonna.” The icon is considered a sacred object of the Catholic church, housed at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa, though it is of the Byzantine “Hodegetria” (“One Who Shows the Way”) type and is also venerated by Orthodox Christians.
Police believe she is responsible for creating and displaying a blasphemous image of the Mother of God with the Christ Child with the rainbow colors of the LGBT movement in place of their halos, reports Sputnik. They discovered dozens of copies of such posters during a search of her apartment, according to Breitbart.
No charges were filed, but police are continuing the investigation, an Amnesty International representative said on Tuesday. Podlesna had just returned from a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands with the human rights organization, reports Human Rights Watch.
In iconography, the gold of halos represents the Uncreated Light of God that shines from Christ as His own and from the saints by virtue of the grace within them. The woman, seemingly oblivious to the importance of iconography, responded, “This was not an attack on religion or faith. This was not a form of attack at all. How can someone attack anyone with a picture?”
It is particularly offensive to replace an image of purity and holiness with the symbol of a movement that supports and fights for sinful lifestyles. It is also illegal according to Polish law to offend the religious sentiments of others, punishable by up to two years in prison.
“Telling stories about freedom and ‘tolerance’ doesn’t give anyone the right to offend the feelings of believers,” Joachim Brudziński, Poland’s Interior Minister, wrote on Twitter. He also described the posters as “cultural barbarism.”
The profanation-provocation comes against the background of tension in Poland lately over attempts to import Western sexual values that are incongruent with the nation’s deep cultural and religious tradition. “We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children – the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender. This is imported, but they today actually threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state,” said Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.
On the other hand, so-called human rights activists are not pleased with the arrest and investigation. “Targeting an activist over an artwork is one more ruthless tactic by the Law and Justice party to demonize LGBT rights and gender equality,” said Hillary Margolis, a women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The government claims to be protecting religion and Polish values, but in reality, it is targeting its own citizens and denying their basic rights,” Margolis said. “Perpetuating the notion that gender equality and LGBT rights threaten Polish society doesn’t protect anyone – it only feeds dangerous intolerance, homophobia, and misogyny.”
"[She] has not admitted to committing the crime,” Podlesna’s lawyer, Radoslaw Baszuk, told CNN. “That does not mean that she did not deny participation in this event.”
In 2012, monastery guards detained a man who was attempting to deface the icon by throwing black paint on it, though, fortunately, it was protected by a pane of glass.
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