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article imagePhilippines shuts down blasphemous Jesus Christ art exhibit

By Leo Reyes     Aug 9, 2011 in Entertainment
The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has finally closed down an art exhibit that features supposedly blasphemous images of Jesus Christ amid protests from art exhibitors who claim the exhibit was part of their freedom of expression.
The controversial art exhibit is part of the works by alumni of a church-run university which aims to challenge the people's perceptions of figures they idolize.
Artist Mideo Cruz works which feature Jesus Christ with a wooden penis image pasted on His face drew criticism from the public. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country with Christians making up about 85% of its population.
Members of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) have demanded the state art center close the exhibit on the ground that it is immoral and blasphemous. The Bishops and other religious groups are also preparing a lawsuit against the center and exhibitors, according to CBCP Website.
“Those responsible for the public exhibit… have a liability because they offended the religious beliefs of a country that is 85 percent Christian,” the website quoted well-known Catholic activist Jo Imbong as saying.
The CCP maintains that there is nothing wrong with the exhibit and that it was part of the artist’s duty to challenge prevailing beliefs.
Earlier, an unidentified couple reportedly attacked the "blasphemous" art exhibits particularly the Jesus Christ poster featuring a wooden penis glued to His face, according Karen Flores, chief of the visual arts department of the CCP.
Philippine President Noynoy Aquino met with leaders of the CCP Monday and it was understood the President wanted a fair and peaceful resolution of the conflict
Later the CCP Board board members decided to temporarily close the exhibit because of the “increasing number of threats to persons and property,” vandalism and claims of blasphemy. They did not say if the President instructed them to close the exhibit.
In an interview later in Batangas City while visiting the Shell Malampaya Gas project, the President said the temporary closure was not an act of censorship.
“There was a depiction of Christ which is not acceptable to anyone and the CCP is funded by public money. It should be of service to the people, but when you insult the beliefs of most of the people, I don’t see where that is of service,” Aquino pointed out.
He clarified though that he is not after censorship.
“Art is supposed to be ennobling and when you stoke conflict, that is not an ennobling activity,” he said, adding that trampling on one’s rights is definitely a violation of the laws of the land.
The controversial exhibit has reached the halls of the Philippine Senate as Senators Jingoy Estrada and Vicente Sotto threatened to slash CCP's budget for next year.
Senator Sotto said he has yet to hear an apology from CCP officials which many have denounced as immoral and blasphemous.
Meanwhile, Mideo Cruz, the controversial artist whose works drew rage from the Christian community, has been disowned by the school where the group of artists came from.
According to University of Sto. Tomas Vice Rector Pablo Tiong, Cruz is an undergraduate of the university and therefore they cannot sanction him.
"The University as an academic community and as a Catholic institution would also like to express that it is denouncing the sacrilegious or religious offensive art works included in the exhibit and all other artwork of similar nature,” Tiong said.
More about Art, Jesus Christ, Art exhibit, freedom of expression, Religious freedom
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