Building bridges of peace and friendship: General Assembly joins in peace prayer on the Danube

3 June, 2018

CEC General Assembly participants at the Denube. Photo: Albin Hillert/CEC

By Astrid Weyermüller

“CEC believes in reconciliation, reconciliation between different political systems, and between estranged cultures. And today this includes the complexity and opportunity not only of an ecumenical Europe, but also an interreligious Europe and others of faiths and yet others of no overt faith,” says the president of CEC, Rt Rev. Christopher Hill. Novi Sad, the venue of the 2018 CEC General Assembly, witnessed just that during a peace prayer held on the Danube today. Commemoration, forgiveness, and hope were at the focus of this prayer.

Peace prayer on the Danube

A procession of delegates and participants started at the memorial commemorating the victims of the raid on Novi Sad in January 1942 during World War II. Hungarian armed forces occupying the region killed 1,246 civilians of the city, mainly Serbs and Jews, throwing their bodies into the Danube.

The procession then passed underneath Varadinski Bridge and ended at the newly constructed Žeželj Bridge. Both bridges were destroyed during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. While the present Varadinski Bridge was reconstructed in 2000, the newly constructed Žeželj Bridge was only opened earlier this year.

Commemorating all those who suffered from violence and atrocities, the archivist of Novi Sad Petr Djurdjev presented the history of the site on the riverbank.

During intercessions the CEC delegates took this up with the following words: “We pray for those who have been forgotten and remain excluded in our world today that justice may flow down like a mighty stream. For peoples divided, that we may have the courage to ask for forgiveness and so be reconciled for the injustice we cause and the harm we do. For the people and land of Serbia who have known war and injustice in recent years, who, in this place, remember past atrocity.”

Trees of righteousness

At the end of the procession four trees were planted near Žeželj Bridge as a sign of hope and reconciliation. CEC President Hill, Beate Fagerli (Church of Norway), Helen Kesete (Orthodox Church of Finland) and Archimandrite Agathangelos Siskos from the Ecumenical Patriarchate (Serbian Orthodox Church) each planted one tree.

They will remain as a reminder of the words of prayer spoken earlier: “Like a great river, you nourish all, enabling us to become fertile ground, to become trees of righteousness, offering shade and bearing fruit. The fruits of the Spirt are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

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