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For this Christian Orthodox Serbian village, converting to Islam is the only way to save their church

AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
If the Church doesn’t save the church, will Mohammad come to the church?
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Šopić is a Christian Orthodox village outside Belgrade whose 150-year-old church was damaged by a tornado last year. Since then the local parish has decided it should be demolished, and replaced with a new one. But the local community doesn’t agree. Residents want the old church restored instead.

Frustrated by the response they’ve gotten, residents have issued an ultimatum direct to Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church. They say they will convert to Islam to tap Serbian state-provided assistance for minorities if they don’t get their church restored soon (link in Serbian).

Šopić’s faithful, Global Voices reported, say they prefer to “keep our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts as our ancient martyrs did, and to place on our heads whatever cap will allow us to protect our shrines” than wait any longer for their church to be restored.

Given the region’s long history of animosity between Orthodox Christian Serbs and Muslim Kosovaars, this threat is no small thing.

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