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PLEASE TRANSMIT TO JUDGE VLADIMIR PROSCHENKO
Judge Vladimir Proschenko
The Taganskaya Court
Dear Judge Vladimir
I am a Sri Lankan Jesuit priest, aged 80, and have just heard of the impending trial of Yuri Samodurov, Ludmila Vasilovskaya and Anna Mikhalchuk in your Court in Moscow. I do not know if there is yet time to intervene from so far away as Kandy, Sri Lanka. But intervene I feel I must, since for many years now I have striven for tolerance, justice and peace for all in my own country and in our part of the world.
I have received information that the three persons named above are being charged before you for their part in an art exhibition, which may offend the religious sensibilities of some of the Russian people.
I have not seen the exhibition myself and so cannot form my own judgment as to just how offensive the paintings may be. Assuring that they are offensive, surely those of us who are religious people can afford to be tolerant, have a sense of proportion and even of humour in these barbs levelled at religion. Surely, followers of Jesus, as some of us strive to be, can let the cockle of negative criticism grow together will the wheat of truth and goodness, as Jesus himself, you may remember, recommended. If critics laugh at us, we have to be ready to laugh at ourselves too and may be at them also.
So let the duty of tolerance of an exhibition with which we may not agree and the right of freedom of speech that is not incendiary prevail when judgement is pronounced. Hence I plead that we should not return to the norms of the Inquisition which your own novelist, Dostoevsky, so forcefully decried. I say this as a Jesuit and as one who has long admired the Russian Orthodox Church for its liturgy and for its great art and cultural traditions.
Paul Caspersz, SJ
23 March 2005