Monday, January 28, 2008

Crucified Kosovo

Lest anyone think Bishop Atanasije's remarks on war too harsh, I offer a very few pictures of desecrated Orthodox churches in Kosovo. I would encourage you to read this comment below, written by a non-Serb with first hand experience of war-torn Kosovo. For some background, I'd suggest these essays: Kosovo in the History of the Serbian Church, by Veselin Kesich; The Serbian Church and Milosevic, by Fr Thomas Hopko; and The Cry of Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija by Bishop Atanasije; for a list of churches desecrated in 1999 alone, see here; for a vivid portrait of life in Belgrade under Milosevic, I'd recommend this unusual but utterly absorbing book.

I conclude with liturgical petitions the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church has directed be inserted into the appropriate litanies at Vespers, Matins, and the Divine Liturgy:

Into the Great Litany:

For God's mercy upon us, His unworthy servants, that we may be protected from hatred and evil action, that we may have instilled in us unselfish love by which all shall know that we are disciples of Christ and God's people, as were our holy ancestors, so that we may always know to decide for the truth and righteousness of the Heavenly Kingdom, let us pray to the Lord.

For all those who commit injustice against their neighbors, whether by injuring the poor or spilling innocent blood or by returning hatred for hatred, that God will grant them repentance, enlighten their minds and hearts and illumine their souls with divine love even towards their enemies, let us pray to the Lord.

At the Augmented Litany:

O Lord our God, many are our foes that battle against us and say: "There is no help for them from God or man". Stretch forth Your hand to us that we may remain Your people in both faith and works. If we must suffer, let it by in the ways of Your justice and Your truth -- let it not be because of our injustice or hatred against anyone. Let us all fervently say: Lord, have mercy.

Again let us pray to God, the Savior of all humankind, also for our enemies -- that our Lord who loves humanity will turn them away from violence against our Orthodox people, that they not destroy our churches and graves, that they not kill our children or persecute our people, but that they too may turn to the way of repentance, justice and salvation. Let us all fervently say: Lord, have mercy.
UPDATE: This is absolutely, positively essential reading [link updated 2/04/08]; and this excellent blog has regular updates on Kosovo; this is the site of the American Council for Kosovo.


Nomodiphas said...

I know there have been countless wars between the Muslims in the East and the Christians in the West, but the Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe have historically born a far greater cost than their brothers in Western Europe.

With the oppression of the Ottomans fresh in their experience and the first-hand knowledge of the ongoing persecution against Christians in Turkey and the other Islamic Middle Eastern nations how do Orthodox Christians view the ongoing acceptance of Islam and integration of Muslims into society of Western European nations and America?

Felix Culpa said...

Not well, I can assure you, although there is hardly a unified voice to be heard. You can find a very useful compendium of links relating to the relationship between Islam and Orthodoxy here:

Practically and politically, the Orthodox Churches in Western Europe are not in a position to criticize the mass immigration of Muslims because so many Orthodox believers in Western Europe are themselves recent immigrants.

That said, you'll notice that many Greek Orthodox leaders (for instance, the late Archbishop Christodulous) speak very openly in favor of maintaining a Christian identity in Europe. While their primary target is secularism, it could often be taken as a tacit criticism of the growth of Islamic influence - something that would be very dangerous for them to state openly.

The situation in North America is similar, although the percentage of new immigrants in Orthodox Churches is not as high as in Europe. (At least that's my impression; I've never seen statistics.) One can certainly find individual Orthodox believers openly criticizing the growing presence of Islam in North America - see the links above -, but I can't think of any collective effort or criticism.

There has, however, been a pan-Orthodox response to the situation in Kosovo. There has been a tremendous frustration with the way these events have been portrayed in the Western media, in particular the media's vilification of the Serbs and support of Muslim Albanians.

Nomodiphas said...

Thanks for the explanation and the link.