Thousands of Orthodox Christians have marched in Belgrade to warn against holding EuroPride despite the Serbian authorities’ decision to cancel next month’s pan-European gathering of the LGBTQ community.
Carrying icons, crosses and religious flags, Sunday’s protesters marched through the city centre while praying and chanting before gathering outside the cathedral of Saint Sava.
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President Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday announced that he had decided, in consultation with the government, that the pride parade would be “postponed or cancelled”.
Vucic said it was not possible to “handle everything” at a time when Serbia was “pressured with all kinds of problems”, underlining recent tensions with former province Kosovo and concerns over energy and food.
But EuroPride organisers promised to press on with the parade.
“Pride will go ahead as planned on September 17,” Belgrade Pride coordinator Marko Mihailovic said.
Addressing the crowd on Sunday, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Nikanor hailed the authorities’ decision to reverse “the desecration of our country, our Church and our family”.
For him, it was an “abnormality” which should be treated as in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin – whom he referred to as “the tsar of the planet”, according to video footage on the Glas Javnosti news site.
In 2013, Russia introduced a law banning LGBTQ “propaganda” aimed at minors, punishable with fines and imprisonment.
Bishop Nikanor said the faithful were ready to take to the streets again to “put themselves before those who intend to destroy the values of Serbia”.
The first two Belgrade Pride marches, in 2001 and 2010, were marred by violence. The parade has been organised regularly since 2014 but with a large law enforcement presence.