Warsaw, Poland – According to local media, a 51-year-old woman has been arrested and accused of profaning the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, one of the most highly revered icons in Poland.
Posters and leaflets of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, whose halos had been painted in the colors of the LGBT flag, started appearing in the city of Płock, central Poland, late last month.
Polish woman detained for “offending religious belief”
Yesterday, local police authorities confirmed that a 51-year-old woman had been arrested on Monday on suspicion of profaning the holy icon, after police investigators found several dozen similar images while searching her house in Warsaw. Her identity wasn’t immediately revealed by law-enforcement authorities.
Joachim Brudziński, Poland’s interior minister, also confirmed on Twitter that police forces had arrested someone for “carrying out a profanation of the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa”, referring to the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, a highly revered icon housed in the monastery of Jasna Góra – about 70 kilometers north of Katowice – and one of the holiest Catholic shrines in Poland.
Poland’s Catholic Church said this event filled Polish people – who rank among the least tolerant towards homosexuality and LGBT rights according to recent studies – with “pain and anxiety”. The Polish Interior Minister labelled the posters as “cultural barbarism”, adding that the values of freedom and tolerance “doesn’t give anyone the right to offend the feelings of believers”.
“Offending religious feeling is a crime under the Polish penal code”, The Guardian reminds, and the woman could face up to two years in jail if found guilty and convicted.
Amnesty International denounces “arbitrary” arrest of activist
Reacting to the news, human rights watchdog Amnesty International issued a statement, saying they were “extremely concerned to hear that Elżbieta Podlesna, a Polish human rights activist, was arrested and detained for several hours on spurious charges […] upon her return to Poland from a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands with Amnesty International”.
“Given the lack of evidence of a crime here, we can only see that Elżbieta has been detained for her peaceful activism”, Amnesty International’s Regional Europe researcher Barbora Cernusakova said, calling “on the Polish authorities to stop harassing peaceful protesters and activists in Poland, including by arbitrarily arresting people who stand up for their rights”.
In recent months, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has targeted the LGBT community in an aggressive campaign to mobilize its conservative electorate ahead of two key elections this year. PiS chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski recently described LGBT rights as a foreign import that threatens the traditional values that lie at the heart of Poland’s identity.
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