When man departed from God, he let death and evil into the world which God had otherwise created good. Departure from God also led to parting man from man. The first murder occurred between the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain’s jealousy made him hate. Blinded by hate, he murdered his brother Abel.
The history of mankind is filled with wars and murders. It is not always easy to distinguish who is to blame for wars or violence, though. Each generation may be divided into those who are tools of evil, murderers and their victims.
When more than two thousand years ago the Son of God came down to Earth and was born as a man, the God-Man Jesus Christ came to defeat evil and death, but not by taking freedom away from the people, as freedom renders them similar to God.
Although he could do anything, as a man, He voluntarily suffered death on the cross and then resurrected. Thus he opened up a way to the generations of believing Christians who would – by following Christ – resurrect themselves, who would – like him – rather suffer death instead of being defiled by crime. Knowing that if evil responds to evil, one cannot extinguish it but only multiply it, they readily accepted a role of a victim. The Church of Christ, a bridge to eternity, was built upon their blood.
The Serbs settled in the lands that have often been in warlike conflicts. Being always in between the great powers of the East and those of the West, never departing from Christ, the Serbs suffered a history of martyrdom.
They particularly suffered under the Turkish invasions on the Balkans and under the Turkish rule. They were tortured and killed and many are remembered as the Christ’s holy soldiers of love and valour. The Serbian lands cover numerous martyred victims – knights and warriors, but also women and children and the elderly who, through centuries, were slain by swords and in fire.
Even before, and particularly after the Battle on Kosovo, the Serbs consciously accepted martyrdom for their faith. Believing in Christ, many martyrs defy death. It was recorded that a Belgrade martyr Avakum (Habakkuk), just before he was to be killed, said, “There’s no faith but the Christian faith! Serbs are Christ’s – they gladly die!”
However, after the liberation from the Turks, the wars did not cease for the Serbs. During the 20th century alone the Serbs tragically suffered several times: in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), in the First World War (1914-1918), in the Second World War (1939-1945). The post war period was also heavy with the communist regime violence towards the political opponents, as well as with wars fought in the lands of the former Yugoslavia between 1991-1999. In all these conflicts the Serbs suffered around three million casualties!
In the First World War, Serbia lost almost half of its work productive men. In the Second World War, expressed in percentages, only Poland and Russia had a greater number of victims than Yugoslavia where the vast majority of them were the Serbs. In the Second World War, Serbian men, women, children and the old were taken to concentration camps, were thrown into pits, burnt in their churches – just for being Serbs. We may easily say that the Serbs are a martyred nations.
The least the generations of today can do is not to forget their martyred forefathers, as their great suffering would be rendered senseless.
The holy Bishop Nikolai of Serbia wrote
in his prayer for the Serbian nation:
„All the land is covered by the bodies of those who were faithfull to God;
every time we dig the soil, a spade hits the bones of our relatives, echoing painfully in our souls.
Every field is a cemetery, every tree a tombstone.
All the land of Serbia is a cemetery.
Lord, be merciful, save Your people, with or without me. Amen.”