CROATIA – From the first day the earth rumbled, Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana was with the people who suffered terrible losses from a series of earthquakes in Sisak, Glina and Petrinja, as well as the surrounding villages.

“In these difficult days, once again, it has been shown that tragedies unite people, and that the Serbian Orthodox Church does not look at who is of which nationality and religion, but offers solidarity and love to everyone,” he said in an interview with the daily newspaper Kurir. He said he will not forget the faces of the people, especially the children, full of fear and anxiety after they had lost everything in a matter of minutes.

He also pointed out that he was moved by the speed with which the institutions from Serbia reacted to help the endangered.Many people were left homeless and had to deal with aftershocks. They slept in cars or abandoned everything to leave the area in search of safety. The horror and anxiety levels were high.

The Metropolitan’s presence likely awakened hope. “People felt, it seems to me, a kind of relief because they realized that they would not be alone. Emergency assistance in the form of mobile homes and containers quickly began to be provided. (The Church) made itself available, and engaged and were with the people… without discriminating based on nationality or religion… Just as natural disasters, whether called a corona or an earthquake, do not choose people by nationality and religion.”

The Church, along with many institutions from Serbia immediately jumped in to offer assistance, beginning with the Government of Serbia. Reportedly the City of Belgrade provided 200,000 euros, Novi Sad provided 35,000 euros, the Executive Council Vojvodina gave 100,000 euros, to mention just a portion of the financial aid that was sent. Approximately 70 mobile homes were made available so people could have a place to rest and go on about their lives during reconstruction.

He went on to say that the state of Croatia is maximally engaged in supplying people who have been left homeless. “My impression is that lately there have been efforts, and even concrete steps coming from the direction of Serbia to Croatia and vice versa, from Croatia to Serbia, to create conditions that will be normal for the life of the Serbian minority in Croatia and the Croatian minority in Serbia.”

In the wake of a difficult year, the Serbian Orthodox Church shas suffered great losses as well. Great church figures have departed this life including Patriarch Irinej, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral and Bishop Milutin of Valjevo. “In a human sense, you feel sadness and loss. It is true that death is defeated by death, and when we look at the repose of any of us from that perspective, we realize that it is going into the arms of God, and we are then filled with immense hope and optimism in the love of God. We need to experience each person as our brother and our neighbor,” he added, conceding we are often not successful in that. In addition to the loss of life and damage affecting the everyday lives of the people, at least eight churches were damaged, two of them completely destroyed. “Now we are helping people. We are doing everything to give people homes, and when that is over, we will have to cope with the renovation of the churches. The damage is great, the renovations will take years.”

“We still need to grow and learn, to begin with, to talk, not to look at each other through sights and not to experience each other as enemies, that is always a challenge and a temptation. Man exists as a being of community. Man does not really exist by himself. I do not exist without you and you do not exist without me,” the Metropolitan said.

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