Anba Suriel, Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Melbourne, has spoken strongly against the erection of huge, bright red, inverted crosses that were installed in the coastal city of Hobart for its winter festival. The Bishop’s call was led to the launching of an online petition demanding the immediate removal of the upside down crosses. Within 24 hours of launching, the petition gathered some 2000 signatures.
Another petition calling for the inverted crosses to be made a “permanent feature” of Hobart gathered only 22 signatures in the same period of time.
The Dark Mofo winter festival held annually in Hobart in Tasmania, Australia, this year irked Christian sentiments by using bright red 20-metre-high inverted crosses as the festival theme. The upside down crosses were erected in prominent positions around the waterfront. The festival runs from 8 to 24 June.
The inverted cross is sometimes referred to as the Cross of St Peter who was martyred on an upside down cross, but is also used as a symbol of the anti-Christ.
Whereas a number of Christian leaders called for calm, and many Hobartians took delight in photographing the bright crosses, Tasmanian director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Mark Brown said that the cross was a very important, precious symbol for Christians, so many would feel offended by the Dark Mofo inverted crucifix. He called on Christians to speak out about it.
The Dark Mofo festival is renowned for turning heads and creating controversy. Last year, the festival involved a bloody sacrificial ritual using a bull. This year, it features performance artist Mike Parr burying himself under Macquarie Street and being resurrected three days later.
As the Christian community sees it, there are many things about Dark Mofo that relay veiled jokes at Christianity.
The ACL called on the state government, which contributes 2.1 million dollars to Dark Mofo per year, to pull funding for the event, saying the crosses continue the festival’s “dark trajectory”, but a spokesperson for the government said it supports Dark Mofo and curation decisions are a “matter for the organisers”.
“In the context of Dark Mofo’s overall occultic themes, upside down crosses are clearly a public statement of anti-Christian values supported by funding from the government,” ACL state director Mark Brown said.
Anglican Bishop Richard Condie remarked: “I am left wondering if this kind of state-funded blasphemy would be tolerated if the symbols were Buddhist, Hindu or Islamic?”
Festival creative director Leigh Carmichael issued a statement which, for Christians, was tantamount to pouring oil on fire. “The cross is a powerful and deeply significant historical symbol … For many, this symbol evokes an emotional response for reasons that we don’t fully understand. While we respect and understand different interpretations, we cannot be responsible for attitudes that people bring to the festival.”
12 June 2018