In Brief

Why Polish priests are burning Harry Potter

Catholic evangelical group destroying books and other objects feared to contain ‘evil forces’

Catholic priests in Poland have staged a burning of Harry Potter books and other titles deemed to promote magic, witchcraft and astrology.

Items including a statue of an elephant, a tribal mask and a pink umbrella were also set on fire during a ceremony conducted by the leaders of a Catholic evangelical foundation, called SMS from Heaven, in the northwestern city of Koszalin, reports The Independent

Photographs of the stunt this weekend were posted to the group’s Facebook page, which has more than 23,000 followers. The images are “accompanied by fiery emojis” and quotes from the Old Testament decrying sorcery and idolatry, says The Guardian.

The objects put to the flame had been brought in by parishioners after priests encouraged them to rid their homes of anything that might contain “evil forces”. 

The Catholic Church is a powerful force for conservatism in Polish society, and plays an important part in a broader culture war involving the country’s right-wing populist government and the more liberal opposition. 

Some Facebook users have even drawn comparisons between this weekend’s book burning and those that took place in Nazi Germany.

But this is by no means the first time that books from J.K. Rowling’s popular series about a boy wizard have been burnt by religious fanatics.

There have been at least six recorded Harry Potter book burnings in the US since the first title in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was released in 1997. 

Indeed, this title is the most frequently challenged book in the country, according to the American Library Association.

In one famous instance, a mother from Georgia “took the case all the way to the State Supreme Court in 2007, alleging that Harry Potter promoted witchcraft and the occult to students”, reports entertainment news site Polygon

A decade later, some social media users claimed they were burning their Potter books in protest against tweets by Rowling criticising Donald Trump.

In a stinging response, Rowling wrote: “Guess it’s true what they say: you can lead a girl to books about the rise and fall of an autocrat, but you still can’t make her think.”

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