Orthodox Priest Encourages Violence Against Pride Marchers

Tomorrow, Saturday, June 30, a gay pride parade is scheduled to take place in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. International LGBT rights group All Out reports that Father Evgenii Yanakiev, an Orthodox priest, encouraged locals to “throw stones” at the participants and called for politicians who support the march to be “drowned in the sea with millstones tied around their necks.”

This call for violence is particularly disturbing given the history of the Sofia pride parade. Last year, marchers were attacked and beaten on their way home. In 2008, the first parade was firebombed with Molotov cocktails by members of a far-right party. “Stoning, fire bombs, public beatings—the story of Pride in Sofia, Bulgaria sounds like it’s from the middle ages not the 21st century,” said Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, which is now circulating a petition to the mayor of Sofia demanding action to protect the safety of parade participants.

To make matters worse:

This year, these same extremists—including the Bulgarian National Union—have now been given a permit to hold a public event—ostensibly a “concert” but in reality an anti-Pride gathering—just a few hours before the Sofia Pride Parade. 

While the march itself will have police present, an angry stirred-up mob of right wing extremists threatens to turn the day into a violence-filled free-for-all. Nothing prevents the mob from blocking people traveling to the Parade or following them home.

Banks calls the anti-gay event a “recipe for disaster.”

Human rights activists have called on the Bulgarian Orthodox church to condemn the calls for violence; the Church has instead condemned the pride parade without saying anything about the threats of violence against marchers.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.