Remembrance Day for the victims of 1999 NATO aggression
On Friday, 24 March 2023, a central event was held at Saint George Square in Sombor, on the occasion of the Day of Remembrance for the victims of 1999 NATO aggression.
His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije served a memorial service to all the innocent victims of NATO aggression, which began with the bombing of our country on this day twenty-four years ago. Protopresbyter-stavrophoros Milivoj Mijatov and Protodeacon Radomir Vrućinić concelebrated with His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch. After the memorial service, His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije delivered a befitting sermon:
“Esteemed Mr. President of the Republic of Serbia, esteemed Mr. President of the Republic of Srpska; dear Effendi Jusufspahić, dear Mufti and all other representatives of other religious communities; all respected representatives of various institutions from Serbia and from other countries who have come here; but, above all, dear brothers and sisters, dear people of Bačka, citizens of Srem, Banat and Bačka and, of course, dear citizens of Sombor, cherished Orthodox people, gathered tonight from almost every place in Bačka and a large number of places from Srem and Banat, but also from other regions, gathered to pray to the One God in Trinity, to pray for the victims of the inhuman and illegal aggression of the largest military power in history, in the most disproportionate war conflict, the most disproportionate balance of power on the battlefield since the beginning of time!
We all remember, from the city where the first bomb fell on this day in 1999, in these same early evening hours, when the first destructions of our wonderful and beloved Motherland, our nature, our property and our lives began, and when the first Serbian citizen was killed, named Radovan Medić, the first of thousands killed and wounded in this aggression. We remind ourselves and others as well that our people, but also the whole world, need peace most of all, but also mutual understanding, awareness that there is room for every living soul under the sun, but also for every nation to organize itself and its life the way that suits it best.
Remembering those days when not only military facilities were destroyed by bombs in this city, but also factories, craft workshops, homes, schools, kindergartens, even the water springs from which the city of Sombor is supplied, while cruise missiles rushed through the surrounding sky-roads to deliver deadly cargo, we are doing the same thing that the people of Sombor did that day, that spring of war in 1999. And the people of Sombor have been gathering in this very square that bears the name – and that is certainly not accidental – of Saint George, but also through him of our God, the God of love, because it bears the name of the Holy Trinity. People gathered here, while encouraging and helping each other, have been, on the one hand, sending out a peace message to the world, and at the same time they have been praying for peace. We do the same today. We gathered to pray for all those who have suffered unjustly from criminal blasts from heaven, where blessings should come from. And instead of the angel of God bringing peace, “angels” came who sowed death. We pray even more fervently today, because today a military conflict is being waged in Europe, which threatens to drag the whole world into its abyssal vortex, and we pray that in Ukraine, where the war is being waged, the weapons that sow death and spill innocent blood will cease as soon as possible.
Some would like to push our Serbian people again – I would say jumping the queue – into conflicts, both among themselves and with others as well. Others, who do not understand that the Christian God is God of love and peace and that the Church lives and witnesses peace, preaching it to all people and nations, demand that the Church, through her positions and statements, actually provide cover to those who would push us into mutual misunderstandings, into new wars and conflicts.
I will repeat what I have said countless times, but also what, I am sure, all of us gathered here today unanimously think: the mission of the Church is to draw strength in every way, and above all, through prayer and faith in Christ, and to witness and build peace and mutual trust between people and nations through the power of Christ’s peace. My peace I give to you – said none other than the Lord Himself. This peace is not like the peace of those who constantly talk about peace and speak more and louder than others, and at the same time produce endless quantities of the deadliest instruments of death and, of course, taking advantage of that production, live incomparably better than others. Let us primarily build and preserve God’s peace within ourselves, and then we will be able to reconcile with other people, first with our closest relatives, with our neighbors, with friends and colleagues at work, with everyone, and then we will be able to be true messengers of peace.
We pray and struggle so that our suffering is not repeated, neither to us nor to anyone else. Let us persistently pursue the path of all conversations and negotiations, the path of dialogue that aims for at least basic mutual understanding among people. But let us not accept ultimatums and blackmails at any cost – ultimatums and blackmails that imply giving away oneself and one’s own, renouncing oneself and one’s own. At the same time, let us do our best to remain the last at the table where a solution is sought that will preserve peace for us and for everyone around us. If the spiral of evil starts here again, there is no doubt and no arguments are needed to confirm that we will all be complete losers. Speaking this, I am looking at the cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, the cross on which, following Christ, thousands and hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of men, women and children from all over the world, but also thousands of men, women and children from our kin, were crucified… All the way from Saint Prince Lazar of Kosovo to Radovan Medić, Hariton of Crna Reka, to Milica Rakić and other children, young and old, who suffered death during the fateful year of 1999.
But, just as the Lord’s Crucifixion and Passion on the cross got not only meaning and inexhaustible hope in the Resurrection, but also brought the ultimate essential victory, not only to latter innocent sufferings but also to every human activity, every work, creation, joy, love, and sorrow, so do we see the cross-resurrectional sacrifice of the victims of our kin as a pledge to our firm following Christ, firm walking in His footsteps of peace and love and undoubted, absolutely certain final victory.
Therefore, today we pray for all those who suffered death in the spring of 1999, innocent victims, for our compatriots, our brothers and sisters. May God forgive their souls and grant them eternal rest, and to all the people who suffered innocently during the NATO aggression against the Serbian people. May God grant us that the greatest Feast, the Feast of victory, the Feast of life and joy, the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ find us in health, spiritual joy and every kind of good. May you all be blessed by God and live for many years!”
After the sermon of His Holiness, there was a program dedicated to the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of 1999 NATO Aggression, during which a musical and stage performance was performed that reminded those present of the difficult and sad days of the criminal attack and bombing of our country, when many of our compatriots suffered innocently. Mrs. Marijana Paskaš, daughter of Yugoslav army ensign Radovan Medić, who was the first victim of NATO aggression, addressed the audience and expressed her gratitude that such ceremonies preserve the memory of all those who lost their lives during the 78 days of bombing. The President of the Republic of Srpska, Mr. Milorad Dodik and the President of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Aleksandar Vučić also addressed to gathered people.
The marking of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of NATO Aggression was attended by the highest state officials: Vladimir Orlić, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Ana Brnabić, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, ministers in the Government of Serbia, representatives of the Serbian Armed Forces, Bishop of Dacia Felix kyr Jeronim from the Romanian Orthodox Church, Bishop of Mohač kyr Damaskin, representatives of traditional Churches and religious communities, clergy and numerous people.
Source: Diocese of Bačka