Visiting of Christian Holy Places by Muslims as a Strategy of Coping With Difference
Based on fieldwork in western Macedonia, I examine Muslim attendance of Orthodox churches and monasteries. Today, only Muslims live in the villages I researched, although in the 1960s and 1970s these places were also inhabited by Orthodox Christians. In all villages, there were two groups (maalo) of Christians and Muslims as well as two temples (church and mosque). Interlocutors recall this neighbourhood as being very close and friendly. They indicate a necessity of cooperating since they used to live and work together, i.e. all depended on each other. The politics of neighbourliness was revealed in paying and receiving visits, exchanging gifts and respecting of others’ feasts and customs. In practice, however, they did not meet very often. Even though currently Christians do not live in the villages of western Macedonia, material signs of their presence still exist: churches, monasteries, cemeteries. Christian holy places are often attended by Muslims who need some non-medical forms for healing. Interviewees admit they lived together on very good terms; they also highlight differences between Christianity and Islam and diminish them by emphasizing similarities between feasts and values presented in the Bible and in the Koran. Their narrations vary depending on each person’s theological knowledge. Both, however, point out the current politicisation of religion that, in their opinion, is taking place in Macedonia.