Catholic priests burn Harry Potter books in Poland

The Harry Potter series of books spins an epic tale of good and evil focused on the adventures of the eponymous bespectacled young wizard. (AFP)
Updated 01 April 2019
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Catholic priests burn Harry Potter books in Poland

  • ‘We obey the Word,’ priests said in a Facebook post showing photographs of the public book burning
  • ‘It’s hard for me to believe that we’re so backward!’

WARSAW: Catholic priests in the northern Polish city of Koszalin burned books they say are sacrilegious this weekend, including tomes from British author J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series of fantasy novels.
“We obey the Word,” priests said in a Facebook post showing photographs of the public book burning and quoting Biblical passages from the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.
One passage exhorting believers to destroy the enemies of God includes the passage “burn their idols in the fire.”
The post shows three priests carrying a basket of books and other items including an African-styled face mask through a church to an outside fire pit.
Photographs show priests saying prayers over the fire pit, where other items including a ‘Hello Kitty’ umbrella and a Hindu religious figurine, are also burning.
The Facebook page belongs to the “SMS from Heaven” Catholic evangelical foundation set up to spread Christian message via mobile phone text messages.
“I’d like to believe this is a joke... Seriously? Are people burning fantasy literature in the 21st century in some kind of sick ritual?!” one Facebook user said in a comment underneath.
“It’s hard for me to believe that we’re so backward!” they added.
Launched in 1997, the Harry Potter series of books spins an epic tale of good and evil focused on the adventures of the eponymous bespectacled young wizard as he struggles against the dark wizard Lord Voldemort.
It has sometimes drawn criticism from religious and conservative circles for what they say is its focus on witchcraft.
In recent months, Poland’s influential Roman Catholic church has been struggling to deal with the fallout of revelations about pedophilia among priests that are unprecedented in this overwhelmingly Catholic country.
Last month, the Polish episcopate admitted for the first time that nearly 400 of its clergy had sexually abused children and minors over the last three decades.
That reflected the findings published in February by a charity focused on sex abuse in the church.


Miracle of ‘Wild Boars’ rescue transforms Thai cave into tourist draw

Updated 18 June 2019
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Miracle of ‘Wild Boars’ rescue transforms Thai cave into tourist draw

  • Between October 2018 and April this year alone 1.3 million people have visited the cave complex
  • The government now has big plans for the area around the storied Tham Luang cave

MAE SAI, Thailand: Tourists snap selfies by a bronze statue of the diver who died trying to save the ‘Wild Boars’ football team from a flooded cave, while mementos from their rescue fly off the shelves — scooped up by the 1.3 million people who have descended on a once serene mountainside in northern Thailand.
“It’s amazing what happened here. I followed everything from Australia,” tourist John McGowan said after taking photos at the visitor center around 100 meters from the Tham Luang cave entrance.
“I wanted to see it with my own eyes,” the 60-year-old said, adding he was a little disappointed the cave is still off limits to visitors.
For a few dollars, tourists can get framed photos at the site, pick up posters of the footballers and take home a souvenir t-shirt — some printed with the face of Saman Gunan the Thai diver who died in the bid to save the group.
There has been extraordinary global interest in the picturesque rural backwater of Mae Sai since 12 youngsters — aged between 11 and 16 — and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23, 2018.
They quickly became trapped by rising water levels and the daring, unprecedented mission to extract them through twisting flooded passageways captivated the world for 18 nail-biting days.
When they emerged — after being heavily sedated and maneuvered out by expert divers — they did so into the center of a global media frenzy.
The cave, which previously received around 5,000 visitors a year, has since been inundated by visitors both Thai and foreign.
“A miracle has happened here with these children,” Singaporean tourist Cheong, giving one name, said but adding Tham Luang “must still have a spiritual side” despite the mass popularity.
Mae Sai district, where the cave is located, was considered off the beaten track for foreign visitors.
But between October 2018 and April this year alone “1.3 million people visited,” site manager Kawee Prasomphol said.
The government now has big plans for the area around the storied cave, Kawee added, allocating a total of 50 million baht ($1.6 million) including a shopping complex, restaurants, hotels and several campsites outside the national park.
Vans disgorge streams of tourists who explore a visitor hub where the centerpiece is a mural entitled “The Heroes.”
It depicts the young footballers, stars of the rescue, and junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha — a reminder of the governmental fingerprints in aiding their cause.
At the heart of the mural is the beaming face of Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out of oxygen attempting to establish an airline to the children and their coach — the only fatality across the near three-week rescue mission.
Laying white flowers at the foot of his bronze statue, Thai nurse Sumalee, who traveled four hours to the site, described him as “the hero of the whole country” in a sobering reminder of the risks involved in the rescue amid the blizzard of marketing opportunities now attached to the cave story.
Nearby lottery ticket vendors are capitalizing on the perceived good fortune linked to the boys’ survival and the folkloric appeal of a nearby shrine. The number of stalls has mushroomed from a few dozen to around 250.
Kraingkrai Kamsuwan, 60, who moved his stall to the site weeks after the rescue, sells 4,000 tickets a month ($2.5) but reckons more will visitors will arrive once the cave reopens.
He said: “People want to gamble after wishing for luck from the shrine.”