The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia

A priest from the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has urged Christians to stone gays and lesbians taking part in Pride parades.

The comment was made in connection with the upcoming LGBT Pride parade set to take place in Sofia on Saturday. The parade has in the past come under violent attack from anti-gay protestors.

“Our whole society must in every possible way oppose the gay parade that is being planned,” Father Evgeni Yanakiev told the Bulgarian Standard newspaper on June 16.

He added: “For this reason today I appeal to all those who consider themselves Christians and Bulgarians. Throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Father Yanakiev confirmed his statement in an interview on Bulgarian national radio on June 20.

In 2008, right-wing extremist groups and football hooligans violently attacked participants in the first LGBT Pride in Bulgaria. In 2011, unidentified thugs attacked and beat three volunteers from the Sofia Pride parade.

“The call to stone gay people is a heinous threat to the security of peaceful people who want to use their freedom of assembly,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

“It is incitement to hatred and violence and should be condemned by the justice minister in the clearest terms and in the most public way possible.”

In the letter to Justice Minister Kovacheva, Human Rights Watch wrote that it is the responsibility of the Bulgarian government to protect LGBT people from violence and from hate speech that might lead to violence.

“Minister Kovacheva should publicly disavow this call for violence and investigate whether Father Yanakiev’s statements can be prosecuted under Bulgaria’s Penal Code,” Dittrich said.

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