AIDOH-girls - The World Social Forum

A change of the tide

“Do you have any idea how offending that sculpture is to Catholics? Didn’t you Danes learn anything the last time you ridiculed a religion? Do you really want a new Muhammad-crisis on your conscience?” I looked over at Lena, one of the people involved with the sculpture, as she was verbally attacked by a white man, looking very angry. Lena defended the sculpture, and soon people had gathered around jumping in the discussion on both sides.

The reactions towards the sculpture suddenly seemed to radicalize, as if the people against it had needed a couple of days to plan a frontal assault. What had been civilized comments about how people disagreed with us on the matters of contraception and the use of a crucifix now became more aggressive and made some of the people, who sat at a table in front off the sculpture, feel threatened.

The catalyst of this radicalized behaviour was easy to pinpoint - The Irish pastor who walked back and forth in front off the sculpture yelling out loud how the use off the sacred crucifix was another one off Denmark’s crimes against religion. How it was blasphemes and insensitive. He told us he agreed in our message, but not with the mean.

The pastor who now lived in Nigeria had felt the consequences of the Muhammad-crisis when one of his friend’s houses was burn down because of it. Nigeria is a place where there are both many Christians and Muslims, so there were violent clashes in connection to the Mohammed-crisis.

Considering his past experiences it was no wonder that the pastor feared another crisis like that, but this was not a critique of a religion, but of those fundamentalist Christians who ban contraception in the name of a God which teqnically also belong to our country. Furthermore the best possible way of avoiding a crisis may not be to yell out accusations of blasphemy and make people all wined up and aggressive.

Debate and thorough considerations

Back at the hotel everyone discussed what had happened, and what should be done about it. Some felt the cross should be removed. They didn’t know what might happen the next day, maybe things would become even worse, and no one wanted to put people in jeopardy. They also felt that we have to respect the strong religious feelings people have for the crucifix. Because even though people in Denmark do not feel very attached to religious symbols, other people do.

Others felt the cross had to stay. The only one who had been aggressive towards the use of the cross was the Irish pastor, and one man should not be able to change a whole sculpture, that would only give the fundamentalist Catholics even more power. It was a very difficult decision, but in the end it was decided that the top off the cross should be removed, so it would be reduced to a pole. In the end two arguments won:

  1. The sculpture was made to raise a debate about the Catholic Church’s and the Bush administration’s influence on the contraception policy. If keeping the cross meant that the discussion would become about using a Christian symbol as a political tool, instead of being about the contraception policy then it would be better to remove it.
  2. It wasn’t only the pastor who was against the sculpture; he was just the most aggressive. Some women came up to us and told us how they agreed with the message we were sending, but that they were really hurt to se the most beautiful symbol they know being used in a negative way, when God was really all they had left. This made a big impression on us, and it was never the intention to hurt people by using the crucifix, only to create a debate.
The Irish pastor came back the next day as he promised. He brought with him a protest for people to sign, against the Danish way of not respecting religion.

Of course by the time he came, the crucifix had already been cut down. However that didn’t stop the Irish pastor. He spent all day getting people to sign his protest, even though he had claimed that he agreed with the message, but not with the use of the crucifix, which had been removed.


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The first day in Kasarani to the English version of this document   Daily blogs from AIDOH-girls on big and small events in Nairobi

Additional Information:
Categories: Daily blogs from AIDOH-girls on big and small events in Nairobi | 2007: World Social Forum, Nairobi, Kenya
Themes: Children´s rights | Criticism of governments | HIV/AIDS | NGO activities | Religion | Sexual education | Women´s rights
Type: Articles
Dates: 22nd January 2007