Chucking unwilling children into holes in the Siberian ice isn't the great idea some Orthodox believers appear to think it is, Russian authorities warn. The trend for "ice baptisms"—usually carried out during the Russian Orthodox festival of Epiphany in January—has been in the spotlight since video surfaced of a screaming, naked boy around 5 years old being repeatedly plunged into an ice hole by a priest. The video caused a huge outcry in the Russian media.
Plunging a child into an ice hole—even for a few seconds—can cause health problems up to and including death, particularly for newborns, a pediatrician warns. A Moscow priest says the practice only became widespread with the resurgence of religion in the 1990s. Christenings aren't any holier if they're carried out in an icy river instead of a church, he says—and if the child is old enough to protest, his or her opinion should be respected. "It does not matter if it happens in an ice hole or in a church, a priest cannot ever be abusive," he tells the BBC. "This is not right." (Read more Russia stories.)