Christian leaders in Israel have condemned an art exhibit in Haifa which they say is insulting to Christianity.
The display by Finnish artist Jani Leinon – called “Sacred Goods” – includes a sculpture of a crucified Ronald McDonald called ‘McJesus’, a crucified Jesus holding shopping bags, and a crucifix in a Ken doll box.
A statement issued on Jan. 12 by the patriarchs and other heads of churches in Jerusalem “strongly” condemned “the irresponsible and provocative images” the Haifa Museum of Art.
“The content of this exhibition includes insulting images of the most sacred figures and symbols of the Christian faith. This issue is unacceptable and should be denounced and undone immediately. The respect of religious symbols and figures, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, should be preserved no matter what,” the statement continued.
“We realize that Israel upholds the right of free expression and speech, however, the character of the Holy Land and the sanctity of the three Abrahamic Religions should be at all times respected and revered. Such an insulting behavior does not help the three religions in their mission to promote tolerance, conviviality, and co-existence among the people of the Holy Land and beyond,” the church leaders said.
They called upon the Municipality of Haifa, and the management of the Haifa Museum of Art to remove the images and demanded a formal apology from the municipality or those responsible for the exhibition.
On Friday, hundreds of Christians held a protest outside the museum, which resulted in three police officers being injured and one person being arrested.
גבר בן 32 נעצר ועוד ארבעה גברים עוכבו לחקירה בהפגנה מול מוזיאון חיפה, במחאה על תערוכה פוגענית ברגשות הציבור הנוצרי. המשטרה פיזרה את ההפגנה בכוח, תוך כדי שימוש ברימוני הלם. כמו כן, שלושה שוטרים נפצעו בראשם במהלך ההפגנה ופונו לקבלת טיפול רפואי @10elilevi @samiaah10 pic.twitter.com/1iO1BRjFfL
— חדשות 13 (@newsisrael13) January 11, 2019
“We denounce the exhibition and the injury to the holiest symbol of Christianity by an institution that is supposed to serve citizens of all religions,” Archimandrite Agapious Abu Sa’ada of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Acre told Haaretz.
Although Leinon is a Christian himself, Abu Sa’ada told the Israeli newspaper cultural sensitivities are different in the Holy Land.
“What is suitable for Europe and the Christian population of Finland is not suitable for our community and cannot be met with understanding,” he said.
Abu Sa’ada also called on all protests against the exhibit to be non-violent.
“We as religious people are meant to steer away from violence. Therefore, whoever thinks he can defend Christian values with violence is gravely mistaken,” he said.
Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev has also called on the museum to remove the display. The museum has agreed to put up a sign noting the display may be offensive to some, and to screen it off from general view, but has not agreed to take it down.