Open Letter Criticises Churches’ Attitude to Kotleba’s Party

Marian Kotleba (TASR)

Bratislava, March 11 (TASR) – Religious organisations in Slovakia bear their share of responsibility for the fact that an extremist party that covers its hatred in Christian rhetoric has got into parliament, a group of theologians and figures from the social sphere stated in an open letter on Friday.

The letter, signed by over 30 personalities, is a response to the election success of the far-right Kotleba-People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) in the March 5 general election. The signatories expressed concern over the lack of condemnation from Christian Churches of the spreading of extremism.

In addition, they called on Church representatives and civic society to take part in a public discussion on the role of Churches and theology in forming a public social space. The signatories stated that Marian Kotleba’s party is expressing itself as one with strictly defined values on the extreme end of the Right, but with the support of religious rhetoric. “Partly because of this they managed to appeal to many conservative and religious people,” states the letter.

According to the letter, Church representatives have looked on in silence at the apparent rise in LSNS’s popularity in Church environments. “Where were they when they couldn’t manage to recognise this abuse of Christian values in support of religious extremism?” Despite the fact that the Slovak Bishops Conference, the Lutheran Church and the Ecumenical Council of Churches have previously commented on social topics, they’ve been silent recently, states the letter.

“We ask whether the question of parties running [for parliament] with fascist and racist worldviews, whose representatives refer to Hitler’s Germany and the first [wartime] Slovak state, who wear fascist uniforms, who deny the Holocaust, who file criminal complaints against an exhibition about World War II, accusing it of promoting Zionism, who have policies based on hatred towards other ethnicities, who use religious rhetoric in order to spread these ideas and whose chances of getting into the Slovak parliament have been transformed into alarming reality wasn’t considered by Slovak Catholic and Evangelical bishops and representatives of other Churches to be a topic worthy of statement prior to the election,” states the letter.

The religious authorities also failed, according to the signatories, when they refrained from commenting publicly on the stances of three Catholic priests, who in a so-called ‘Initiative 2016’, publicly supported LSNS. A brief assessment of the Slovak Bishops Conference of the election results, in which the Catholic Church only expressed hope that the elected parties will do good for society is considered by the signatories of the open letter to be hypocritical. “The fact that the Evangelical Church and other Churches haven’t yet commented on the election results is also disturbing,” reads the letter.

Among others, the letter was signed by protestant theologians Ondrej Prostrednik, Frantisek Abel and Michal Havran, Catholic theologian Miroslav Kocur, preacher Daniel Pastircak, photographer and publicist Andrej Ban, sociologist Michal Vasecka, publicist Stefan Hrib and philosopher Fedor Blacsak.