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Christians in Holy Land rally against ‘insulting’ artwork of crucified Ronald McDonald

Martin M. Barillas Martin M. Barillas Follow Martin
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'McJesus' sculpture of a crucified Ronald McDonald.

HAIFA, Israel, January 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A work of art titled “McJesus,” which depicts a crucified Ronald McDonald, spurred calls by Christians in Israel to remove the offending sculpture from an art museum in Haifa. On Friday, hundreds of angry protesters demanded its removal in an event that saw a clash between police and demonstrators. Local Christian leaders called McJesus an “abuse” of a sacred symbol.

Representing the various rites of the Catholic Church in Israel and the region, the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land recognized that the intention of the exhibit was “aimed at criticizing the consumer society,” but complained that it denigrates the “greatest symbol of Christianity.”

The ordinaries demanded that city authorities remove the “offensive exhibits.”

A Jan. 12 statement by the patriarchs and other heads of churches in Jerusalem “strongly” condemned “the irresponsible and provocative images” at the Museum, reported Cruxnow.

“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 church leaders said.

"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 leaders added.

At the protest, some rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with police, injuring three seriously. 

On the day before the violent protest, Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev sent a letter to Haifa Museum director Nissim Tal in which she asked for the removal of the sculpture.

“Disrespect of religious symbols sacred to many worshipers in the world as an act of artistic protest is illegitimate and cannot serve as art at a cultural institution supported by state funds,” Regev wrote.

On Monday, Church representatives asked a court to order the removal of “McJesus,” in addition to depictions of the Virgin Mary and a bloodied Jesus as Barbie dolls from the “Sacred Goods” exhibit. In an AP report, church adviser Wadie Abu Nassar said he believes that the world would be “turned upside down” if the work had been directed at non-Christians.

"What is suitable for Europe is not suitable for us," said the pastor of Haifa's Roman Catholic Saint Elijah Cathedral, according to the Daily Sabah. For his part, Rev. Archimandrite Agapious Abu Sa'ada of the Greek Melkite Catholic Archeparchy of Acre told Haaretz newspaper that the art exhibition causes "injury to the holiest symbol of Christianity by an institution that is supposed to serve citizens of all religions." He also demanded that protesters should eschew violence. “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.

After the Friday protest, the museum director met with city officials and church leaders and agreed to affix a sign at the museum entrance that explains that offensive content is within. The museum has refused to take down the exhibit, citing concerns that politicians will censor future art installations. A statement from the museum deplored the firebombing and said that objections to art should not be violent. 

“A discourse about art, however complex it may be, must not spill over into violent territory and must be respected — even in charged situations,” it said.

The museum website explains the ideology behind the objectionable art.

According to The Jerusalem Post, artist Leinonen demanded that his “McJesus” be removed immediately from the exhibition, claiming that it was there against his wishes. Leinonen belongs to the Palestinian leftist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is opposed to what it calls the occupation of Palestinian territories by Israel. BDS has mounted protests in the past against companies and artists who do business in Israel. Critics of the BDS movement assert that it is anti-Semitic in orientation and that it uses Nazi-style tactics. It has been cited for ties to the World Council of Churches. BDS has frequently tried to shut down art exhibits in the past.

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