Belgrade, Serbia (GVO) – Residents of Šopić, a village just outside of Belgrade, threatened to “collectively convert to Islam” if their damaged Orthodox church wasn’t reconstructed by the parish in October 2015. In a letter to Patriarch Irinej of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the parish members appealed to the leader of the Church to support the reconstruction of the small 150-year-old Šopić church that had been damaged in a natural disaster the previous summer.
According to Serbian daily Alo!, the trouble began when a tornado badly damaged the church within minutes in July 2014, ripping the roof off, and damaging the church bells and structure. In the meantime, the parish priest made the decision to have the church torn down and a new temple built on the site, despite the complaints of local residents to preserve the century and a half old structure. In the letter addressed to the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the parish members say:
If we don’t receive your support, which we expect as members of the faith and your faithful followers, we will be forced to, may God forgive us, collectively convert to Islam so that we can, in accordance with the positive laws of the Republic of Serbia, receive better protection of our temples and 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 from the arrogance and tyranny of anyone.
The parish members of Šopić added in statements to the media that they are not entirely opposed to the construction of a new church, as long as the old church is preserved and reconstructed, stressing that they feel their faith is not as protected as other minority faiths in Serbia.