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Our View: Gavriel controversy shows someone is always offended by something

George Gavriel1

Finally someone saw sense. On Wednesday the cabinet decided to drop a disciplinary hearing against headteacher Giorgos Gavriel for his irreverent works that poke fun at Church and State after months of one controversy following another around a series of paintings.

The decision to have this hearing had been taken by the education ministry, although given the latest idiocy by the ministry involving the schoolbook containing a passage on Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, nothing should come as a surprise anymore.

Based on the ‘charge sheet’ drawn up against Gavriel at the public education disciplinary committee, the artist is considered to have repeatedly published on his personal website and in the media artwork that insulted and offended the state, religious institutions, religious symbols and historical/national figures that is not compatible with being a teacher.

He was also being accused of “not complying with the instructions of the competent authority” while his actions in presenting his beliefs in the paintings “in an insulting way could shake the public’s trust in the whole educational community”. So, if you become a teacher, your job is to conform with Church and State dogma, not to have open debate or to question anything?

So what if he insults the state and religious institutions in his own time. It is the educational system itself that has shaken much of the public’s trust over the years with the Ataturk incident being only the most recent.

Clearly there was a lot of pressure from the Church and presumably the Archbishop to put Gavriel in his place with the suggestion to hold what is nothing short of a mediaeval inquisition. It’s beyond hypocritical that someone who insults and offends others as much as the Archbishop has the nerve to be offended at all by anyone.

Isn’t the Bible verse ‘Let him who is without sin cast the first stone’ more than relevant in this case? The Church needs to set an example of the tolerance it claims to have and should have told the education ministry to drop this nonsense.

As for insulting the state, opposition Akel has accused the government of persecuting the artist, saying this is the 21st century and not the Middle Ages and that the move smacked of something a ‘regime’ would do. This is all true, but Akel only speaks up on free speech and censorship issues when it suits its own agenda.

Societies can only progress when they challenge prevailing dogma coming from Church or State, whether that be through words, music or art. That is how we moved from the mentalities of the Middle Ages. However, it seems we may be coming full circle as there is always someone being offended at any given time about something or other, and ironically it is the technological tools of the 21st century that are fuelling it.

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