SKOPJE – A decision by Aerodrom municipality to erect a 33-metre-tall Christian cross in the Macedonian capital, to be viewed by the predominantly Muslim parts in Skopje, is raising criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims as ignoring their needs.
“There are enough churches and mosques,” Adem Ahmet, an elderly ethnic Albanian resident of Skopje’s Albanian-dominated Cair municipality told BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) on Monday, November 11.
“There is no need for such monuments,” he added.
The plan to build the tall cross in the Aerodrom municipality of the Macedonian capital was announced recently.
The cross, with its 33 meters symbolizing Jesus’s age, should be built within a year and will be financed by donations.
According to the project’s initiator, the pan-Macedonian non-profit organization, the World Macedonian Congress, the cross will be visible in the Albanian predominantly Muslim parts of Skopje.
The congress added that the cross in Aerodrom, a municipality dominated by Macedonians who are mainly Orthodox Christians, is not intended to offend Muslims.
“The cross is neither a conspiracy nor a provocation, but a cultural affirmation. It is not an anti-Islamic symbol but an integral part of the Macedonian culture,” the World Macedonian Congress said in a statement.
The cross construction was approved last week following a vote by the municipal council in Aerodrom, the vote supported by the main ruling centre-right VMRO DPMNE party.
With the decision, the municipality gave the land to the Congress for the construction of “a temporary object of cultural and religious character”.
The Congress, seen as a conservative organization close to VMRO DPMNE, describes Macedonia as “the basis of Christianity in Europe”.
It followed rumors that a nearby Turkish investment project would build four skyscrapers that could invite an influx of Muslim buyers in the ethnically and religiously homogenous municipality.
The building of the giant cross was announced just as the Turkish investors denied rumors that they planned to build a mosque there.
Despite the congress assurances, Macedonian Muslims and Christians criticized the ‘unnecessary’ project.
“This is provocation,” another local Muslim Albanian resident told BIRN.
“We already have one [66-metre-high] cross [in Skopje] which can be seen from everywhere,” he added
The other huge cross, twice the size of the new one, was erected in 2001 on top of Vodno Mountain near the city.
Called the ‘Millennium Cross’, it was also a focus for ethnic and religious grievances in the country which went through a brief armed conflict between ethnic Albanian insurgents and the security forces the same year.
Like the Albanians, ethnic Macedonians in Aerodrom did not seem thrilled by the idea of the new cross.
“We have other priorities in the municipality, kindergartens, schools, hospitals,” one of them, Milka Kapushevska, told BIRN.
Muslims make up nearly 33 percent of Macedonia’s two million population, according to World Fact Book.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
As for his crucifixion, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but was lifted up to heaven.
Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth before the end of time to restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ (Al-Masih Al-Dajjal) and bring victory for truth and righteousness.
The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him, misrepresent him and reject him.
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