Czech Archbishop sues theater over play about Jesus

Two performances by Croatian director Oliver Frljic at the International Theater Festival in Brno ignited protests and aroused a surprisingly heated public reaction in one of the most atheistic countries in the world. 

Sofija Kordic
Sofija Kordic NewsMavens, Czechia
Czech Archbishop sues theater over play about Jesus - NewsMavens
Archbishop Dominik Duka, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

During the performance of "Our Violence and Your Violence" in Brno’s Husa na Provazku, some 30 members of the radical right-wing movement Decent People stormed the stage and disrupted the performance for an hour. They were not the only ones to protest the peformance.

Archbishop Dominik Duka says that both performances by Oliver Frljic, "Our Violence and Your Violence" and "Curse," in which Pope John Paul II is depicted with an erect penis and one actress destroys a cross with a chainsaw, have infringed his rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. 

Center director Petr Oslzly pointed out that he didn’t understand how a theater performance, which Duka hadn’t even seen, could intentionally harm him and his rights.

Frljic’s play united Christian-Democrats, Communists and right-wing radicals, religious people and atheists in unprecedented criticism over theater performance in Czechia. Political analysts explained it as a pure populistic tool taking into account upcoming local elections and the considerable anti-Muslim sentiment among Czechs. The Decent People movement intends to take part in the local elections.

The play's scene in which Jesus rapes a Muslim woman is an artistic metaphor and reflects the director’s criticism of Europe’s approach to Middle Eastern countries, refugees and migrants, but some politicians and members of the Catholic church have denounced the scene as blasphemous and deviant.

Details from the story:

  • Duka is suing the Center of Experimental Theatrer, which runs the Husa na Provazku Theatre. This is the first time that a primate of the Czech Catholic church has turned to a court to “decide what is art and what is deliberate harming of another person and my rights.”
  • Duka and his lawyer require an apology from the Center of Experimental Theater and want them to keep an apology on their website for six months.
  • Duka has filed this lawsuit as a physical person. The Brno Municipal Court accepted Duka’s lawsuit.
  • Martin Glaser, the director of Brno’s National Theatre said that the incident reminded him of the rise of fascism during the 20th century.
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