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Struga: religious tolerance falls before political battles.

Political battles between political parties should not be fought by way of raising religious issues, which objectively can and should be conducted only at the level of a debate or dialogue, says Nova Makedonija. Religious diversities must not lead to political grouping. This is how religious analysts interpret the series of incidents on interethnic and religious grounds that have shook the region of Struga over the weekend. The last in the series of events was the damaging of the 4-meter cross in the yard of the church of Sveta Bogorodica in the village of Brodec.

The revolt of the local Muslims began last Friday when the Struga Mufti Community staged protests against the scenes and masks of the Vevcani carnival held on 14 January this year, which they find to be insulting and anti-Muslim. They feel offended and believe that the carnival ridiculed the holy book of Quran as well as the Islamic principles of life.

"I believe that in such cases, the mechanisms of the institutions should be used and should be seen in that way whether the state backs such events or other values. Religious issues are sorted out in other ways, that is to say, dialogue," says religious analyst Cane Mojanovski.

Valentina Bozinovska, president of the commission for relations between religious communities, immediately warned that we are two weeks away of the report of the US Department of State on fundamental rights yet the incidents in Struga, she added, are not going to result in more serious inter-religious implications.

"People failed to understand what carnivals mean. It is a metaphoric approach of civilized societies and it is thought that where carnivals are held there is a higher development of social thought. Carnivals are commentaries of societies. The vandalism as seen in the burning of the Macedonian flag is an isolated case. Nothing has changed in the religious and national relations," Bozinovska said.

She is scheduled to meet Monday Sulejman Rexhepi, the Head of the Islamic Religious Community, and believes that the Struga Muftis are not directly involved in the incidents.

SDSM asked VMRO-DPMNE and BDI Sunday to send out a joint and clear message that they are not going to tolerate political provocation that irresponsibly tempers with the interethnic relations in the country.

On Saturday, at about 9 in the evening, the hospital Meniks in the village of Labunista, where 25 residents of Vevcani work, was stoned. The association "Ikre" of Labunista demands that they all be laid off. Outside the Miladinov Brothers memorial house in the center of Struga on Friday night, unidentified assailants set fire to the Macedonian flag, as the bus of the transport firm Sprija of Vevcani, was stoned on the Velesta-Vevcani road. Vevcani Mayor Pero Ilievski has been asked to resign, too.

Although Struga Mayor Ramiz Merko was part of the protests together with the local muftis, he holds that what is happening now has no political background and may seriously affect the interethnic relations in Struga, which, in his view, has been a synonym of coexistence for centuries.

"The assembly was not political motivated. I supported it because I felt that the sentiments of the residents professing Islam had been hurt. If the sentiments of the Orthodox believers were hurt too and if there were protests by priests, I would be with them, too," Merko said.

He trusts that in the carnival politicians and events may be scorned. But religious and national sentiments should by no means be played with.

The municipality of Vevcani replied that the carnival had been abused for scoring cheap political points by mayor Merko and the organizers of the protests, as a proof of that is the fact that the reactions of the Muslims came belatedly, two weeks of the carnival.

In an attempt to ease tension, the commission for relations between ethnic groups in the municipality of Struga recommended an immediately meeting between the mayors of Struga and Vevcani.

The Interior Ministry Office in Ohrid says security has not been threatened and there is no need of heavier police presence in Struga.

The residents of Struga say the peaceful coexistence between the ethnic groups in the city is being undermined occasionally for the sake of scoring political points and that it is the politicians who stoke up tension between Orthodox and Muslim believers. They say fresh are their memories of two years ago when the Macedonian students of the Niko Nestor secondary school boycotted classes demanding monolingual shifts on account of their increasingly more frequent conflicts with their Albanian peers.
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Title Annotation:MIC NEWS
Publication:INFOMAC Daily News Service
Date:Jan 30, 2012
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