Saturday, July 06, 2013

Secret shrine shared by Muslims and Christians

Secret shrine shared by Muslims and Christians

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2010/04/13 17:03:36 GMT

By Dusko Arsovski
BBC Macedonian
The shrine is approached up a steep hill

Up 240 steps, behind a padlocked wooden door, is a shrine holy to both
Christian and Muslim believers.

It is not well known. Wary of flocks of tourists, the people in
Makedonski Brod, in south-western Macedonia, have kept its existence a
well-guarded secret for years.

The aged building, marked only by a cross from outside, is decorated
within by Christian icons, and portraits of both Jesus Christ and
Muslim saints.

A stone - said to be from the tomb of a saint of the Bektashi order of
Islam, sits right in the middle of the room.

The Bektashi Order is a branch of Sufi Islam which originated in
Turkey and spread to parts of the Ottoman empire, including the

For its adherents this building is their place of prayer - a "turbe".

To Christians it is the Church of Saint Nikola. But they have shared
the space happily for years.

It is a remarkable feature in a region that has so recently been torn
along ethnic and religious lines.

'Miracles happen'

Baba Ejup Rakipi, the local Bektashi leader, tells how, once a year,
Christians and Muslims come together here on the day of Saint George
known as "Gjurgjovden".

On that day, after prayers, he says, believers sit around the same
"table of love". They drink from the same glasses and eat with the
same forks.

The walls bear images of both Christian and Muslim saints

"There are souls who neither doubt, nor feel disgust towards other
souls, because we are God's creatures and cannot be divided," he says.

The shrine in Makedonski Brod was first built as a church in the 14th
Century, but was destroyed later during the Ottoman invasion,
historians in Macedonia's capital, Skopje say.

But the legend told in the area has it that the church was rebuilt as
a sacred place in the 18th Century by a Muslim bey, in an effort to
remove the curse from the house he was trying to build, that was
always collapsing.

In the shrine of today, the Orthodox priest, Marko, says he often
prays for the Muslim worshippers and "sometimes miracles happen".

He tells the tale of a mute Muslim boy who had started to speak upon
hearing an Orthodox prayer read for him.

"Unfortunately, I do not have any scientific evidence to back this," he adds.

'We're all the same'

As for sharing the space with believers of another faith, the priest
has no problem.

"Our origin is from the same creator, therefore we are all the same in
front of God no matter what religion we belong to - Muslim, Orthodox
or Roman Catholic. We are all the same and the God's mercy is equal
for all," he says.

Historians in Macedonia's capital, Skopje, say that the shrine at
Makedonski Brod, although not known to many, it is not the only one in
the country.

Ethnologist Elizabeta Koneska has studied the phenomenon for years.
She says such places of worship are common in small countries like

"For centuries, people who lived together, also prayed in common
temples," she says.

"Although the ritual was observed discretely, people respected it and
tolerated each-other".


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