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Christians in Cyprus protest against Eurovision entry they say promotes satanic worship

The artist says her song has been misinterpreted and is about an abusive relationship between two lovers.

A protestor holding a cross climbs a gate outside Cyprus’s national broadcasting building
A protestor holding a cross climbs a gate outside Cyprus’s national broadcasting building
Image: Petros Karadjias

PROTESTERS GATHERED OUTSIDE Cyprus’ state broadcaster to demand the withdrawal of the country’s Eurovision entry that they say promotes satanic worship.

The broadcaster and the singer of the song, called El Diablo, insist it has been misinterpreted and it is actually about an abusive relationship between two lovers.

Some of the protesters held up placards reading in Greek, “We’re protesting peacefully, no to El Diablo,” “Repent and return to Christ” and “Christ saves, Diablo kills”.

The protest came several days after the powerful Orthodox Church called for the withdrawal of the song that it said mocked the country’s moral foundations by advocating “our surrender to the devil and promoting his worship”.

The Holy Synod, the Church’s highest decision-making body, said the song “essentially praises the fatalistic submission of humans to the devil’s authority” and urged the state broadcaster to replace it with one that “expresses our history, culture, traditions and our claims”.

Last week, police charged a man with uttering threats and causing a disturbance when he barged onto the grounds of the public broadcaster to protest against what he condemned as a “blasphemous” song that was an affront to Christianity.

The state broadcaster insisted that the entry will not be withdrawn, but its board chairman, Andreas Frangos, conceded that organisers should have done a better job at explaining the core message of the song, whose lyrics include, “I gave my heart to el diablo…because he tells me I’m his angel”.

embedded258450954 Protesters are calling for the withdrawal of the song from the competition Source: Petros Karadjias via PA Images

Even the Cypriot government waded into the controversy, with presidential spokesman Viktoras Papadopoulos saying that although the views of dissenters are respected, the government cannot quash freedom of expression.

“The Government fully respects creative intellectual and artistic freedom that cannot be misinterpreted or limited because of a song’s title, and unnecessary dimensions should not be attributed,” Papadopoulos said in a written statement.

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The song’s performer, Greek artist Elena Tsagrinou, said that the song is about a woman who cries out for help after falling for a “bad boy” known as El Diablo and coming to identify and bond with her abuser. Tsagrinou insisted that any other interpretation is “unfounded”.

“The song sends a strong message, one against any form of abuse, such as the one conveyed in El Diablo,” Tsagrinou told The Associated Press. “In these ‘Me Too Movement’ times that message is extremely relevant and can be felt not only in Cyprus but also across Europe and beyond.”

She added that she is a Christian and her faith is very important to her.

Addressing the song’s detractors, Tsagrinou said “we must all embrace the true and intended message of the song” and that people are now stepping forward with their own stories of abuse.

“Music unites and empowers. Let’s focus on that and the important issues around us and leave misinterpretations and dark thoughts behind,” Tsagrinou said.

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