Fear and loathing in Kolonaki and Kastoria

Fear and loathing in Kolonaki and Kastoria

The bomb outside the Church of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite (Aghios Dionysios Areopagitis) in Kolonaki and the black paint thrown at the Holocaust Memorial for Kastoria’s 1,000 Jews murdered by the Nazis prove (if further proof were needed) the depth of our decadence. The perpetrators of the two acts were not known last night; it is certain, though, that they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. What they have in common is bigotry, the wish to destroy the “enemy” (at the symbolic level, at least), and impunity. As long as these criminals do not pay for their crimes, as long as society remains indifferent, the attacks will increase in frequency and intensity, till the point when hatred and fear dominate.

The Education Ministry’s annual report on incidents against targets of religious importance in Greece, which was released last week, showed that in 2017 there was a significant increase of such attacks from 2016 (159 percent). It seems that 2018 could be even worse. The report lists 11 cases of vandalism against Jewish targets in 2017 (up from five in 2016 and four in 2015), whereas the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece records 13 this year. The Holocaust Memorial for Thessaloniki’s Jews, alone, was vandalized four times in 2018. According to the ministry report, the Orthodox Church is the main target, accounting for 537 of the total number of 556 incidents that were recorded. This number includes vandalism, break-ins, theft, fires and “other acts of sacrilege.” Incidents of religious intolerance come to about 25, showing the disproportionately great number of attacks on Jewish and Muslim targets (eight in 2017).

Whether members of “anti-establishment” groups who feel obliged to attack the “dominant religion,” or supernationalists who want to eradicate prefabricated enemies (who could be Jews, or Muslims, or both), in both cases they are “rewarded” with the praise of those who think like them and with the near total indifference of the rest of society. Maybe, though, the crimes in Kastoria and Kolonaki may signal an awakening: In the latter case, two people were injured and the authorities will have to pursue the perpetrators; in the first, it is encouraging that Kastoria’s mayor was quick to condemn the vandalism and citizens rushed to clean the memorial. Maybe action by the authorities and public concern could manage to limit the contagion of loathing and violence.

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