Photo: Pescanik
Photo: Pescanik

During their meeting in March, Patriarch Porfirije of the Serbian orthodox church told Emanuele Giaufret, the head of the EU delegation in Serbia, that he doesn’t agree with the statement of the EU parliament that Russia is using the Serbian orthodox church to destabilize the Western Balkans, by having it promote Russia as a “protector of traditional family values.” However, six months after that meeting, we find Porfirije doing exactly that. In the span of just a couple of days, he awarded Hungarian prime minister and Russian ally Viktor Orban with a prestigious church medal, and then gave a public statement against Belgrade EuroPride. He justified both these actions with the need to protect traditional values. It seems that him and Giaufret had a misunderstanding. Namely, the Serbian patriarch doesn’t need a Russian mentor to advocate the ideology of ‘traditional values’, because this right-wing demagogy already suits his worldview, and is in fact the official ideology of the SOC.

When awarding Orban the medal of St. Sava of the first degree, patriarch Porfirije said that each individual and community lives in line with their own system of values. They organize their private, social, and cultural lives based on those values, as well as build relations to those that are different. According to the patriarch, what we are facing today are “waves of new value systems which are often aggressively imposed on a global scale in order to destroy any existing natural and civilizational order and to create a new paradigm. The intent behind that vortex is to destroy the identities and pillars of individuals and communities, to render everything relative, fragile, and fluid. You, on the other hand, stand for a Christian system of values originating in the Gospel, as set down by God.” So, according to him, people are naturally divided into authentic cultural communities, so any globalist mixing is simply unnatural and authoritative leaders like Orban have a (literally) God-given mandate to prevent this mixing. What we are witnessing here is the well-known (fascist) fear of race mixing.

According to the patriarch, Orban is the only politician today who uses words like “God, faith in God, Church, spirituality, Cristian values, unity of all Christians.” His unique quality was particularly proven by his use of the word “soul” in the phrase “the battle for the soul of Europe,” emphasized Porfirije. The anti-globalist fight for the soul of Europe has already started with aggression against Ukraine by Porfirije’s and Orban’s ally Putin. What kind of cultural policy is being implemented in occupied Ukrainian territories?

According to the research of the Ukrainian Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF) published at the end of June, since the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine, more than 240 religious buildings were damaged or destroyed. Most of the destroyed churches, mosques and synagogues were in Donetsk region (63), around Kiev (47), Kharkov (37) and Lugansk (34). The majority of these buildings (100) belong to the Ukrainian orthodox church which used to be part of the Moscow patriarchate until the beginning of the war, when they declared independence due to Patriarch Kirill’s support for the war.

IRF research also states that there is an openly imperialist Russian cultural policy based on “Russian world” ideology being implemented in occupied territories. Within that policy, Russian occupational forces are removing and destroying books in Ukrainian from libraries, prohibiting use of Ukrainian language in public (for example, in traffic) and trying to take control of religious activities. Religious leaders are forced to justify Russian aggression and submit to religious centers in Russia, mostly by means of threats and torture. The study states that the Russian officials are justifying the aggression against Ukraine with the need to protect orthodox believers and Russian speakers, but that the Russian army is basically destroying religious objects and believers “regardless of language, religion and ethnicity.” This is why the IRF report concludes that every religious community in Ukraine is “in danger to some extent.”

In recent times the SOC has been basing its martyr identity on the fact that during the 1990s conflicts and 2004 pogrom in Kosovo – as they like to call the Albanian demonstrations from that year – many of the SOC’s sacral objects were damaged or destroyed. Based on that, it would make sense to expect the SOC to give their full support to all religious communities in Ukraine and speak up against the destruction of Ukrainian spiritual heritage. The same principles should apply everywhere, in Kosovo as well as in Ukraine – but no. Instead, the SOC is strengthening its connections with supporters of “authentic culture,” who feel that other, non-authentic cultures, infected with unnatural globalist pluralism, should be destroyed.

The only one who still hasn’t received a St. Sava medal is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the non-democratic president of Turkey. The SOC has placed medals on the breast of many of the most famous authoritarians and aggressors of our time: Putin, Lukashenko, Vucic, Dodik and now Orban. What these leaders have in common is that they are all open or concealed enemies of the European Union, liberal freedoms, human rights, and democracy. Disrespect for the traditions of the Enlightenment, strong ties with nation and nationalism, aspiration to collectivism are all internal factors in orthodox Christianity which inevitably drag it into coalition with right-wing authoritarianism. Hence Orban’s medal and statements against EuroPride are not incidents, but the life-long game of a religious tradition which consciously chose to sleep through most of the key progressive moments of the European civilization.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 17.09.2022.