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The Serbian Orthodox Church has condemned violence against gay activists for the first time, even though it remains staunchly opposed to the staging of a gay pride march this weekend.
Public condemnation of anti-gay violence by the influential church is important for Serbia's embattled gays, who face harassment in the Balkan country.
Right-wing groups have threatened violence against organisers and participants of the march in Belgrade on Sunday.
They argue that gay events are contrary to Serbian values.
Extremists broke up a pride march in 2001 and forced the cancellation of last year's event.
The church said that inciting or resorting to "violence, allegedly in the name of God or the Christian church is absolutely inadmissible and contrary to Christian values."
"Violence does not cure or defeat evil, only helps spread it," the Holy Synod said in a statement.
In the past, the church had lashed out at gay activism. Hardline Bishop Amfilohije has said that gay activists themselves provoke violence by extremists.
The holding of the march is viewed as a test for Serbia which is seeking EU membership.
Authorities have promised to ensure security for the gathering.
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