NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Several dozen Orthodox Christian faithful and clergy members held up wooden crucifixes, icons of saints and a banner declaring Cyprus’ love for Christ in a renewed protest Wednesday over the island nation’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, which they contend promotes Satan worship.
The protest, held opposite the gates of the offices of state broadcaster RIK, was the second against the song “El Diablo” staged by Christians who argue the number has no place as the national song of Cyprus in the contest because of what they say is its brazen invitation to embrace the devil.
Both RIK and singer Elena Tsagrinou, who represents Cyprus in the contest underway this week in the Netherlands, say critics have misinterpreted the lyrics of “El Diablo” and that it’s actually about an abusive relationship between two lovers.
The song passed its first competition hurdle during a Tuesday semifinal and made it into the contest’s final round, set for Saturday in Rotterdam.
The people protesting Wednesday saw that as no cause for celebration, insisting that “El Diablo” is an affront to Cypriots’ Orthodox faith.
“This song doesn’t represent Cyprus. It doesn’t honor it. It insults Cyprus, it desecrates Cyprus and is dangerous, my good Orthodox Christians,” an unnamed clergyman said into a microphone while addressing the demonstrators. “It’s dangerous to our children, to our families. There is no chance that the devil can do any good to anyone.”
The Cypriot government has said that while dissent is respected, freedom of expression cannot be quashed.
The powerful Orthodox Church of Cyprus called for the withdrawal of the song in March, saying it mocked the Mediterranean island nation’s moral foundations by advocating “our surrender to the devil and promoting his worship.”
The Church’s highest decision-making body, the Holy Synod, urged the state broadcaster to replace it with one that “expresses our history, culture, traditions and our claims.”
Police also charged a man with uttering threats and causing a disturbance when he barged onto the grounds of the public broadcaster to protest what he condemned as a “blasphemous” song.
Tsagrinou played down the controversy. She said “El Diablo,” which she performs flanked by four dancers in skin-tight red costumes, is about an abusive relationship and has nothing to do with devil worship.
She said dealing with COVID-19 restrictions was tough while preparing for the contest, “but that’s not going to keep us back, and we’re going to feel the vibe that we want to feel and the smile on our face.”