I know I have written about this church before, a year or so ago, but it haunts me. Recent events brought it back to mind, and so I wanted to mention it again. It happened once (at least) and it can happen again. Even here, in our own country. Perhaps the weapons of attack will be ridicule and marginalization rather than fire and guns, but the attempt at destruction will be real.
It was late afternoon as our bus drove along the rural road. The village was small and decrepit, without even a name posted. Nobody was in sight. We passed the local bar–a small, open, ramshackle wooden structure, with a window looking out over a covered patio and some picnic benches, filled with silent, ragged men turned sullenly in our direction. Across the street could be seen the ruins of a church silhouetted against the sky. It had been over 70 years since it was looted and torched by the men’s parents and grandparents, urged on by their government to purge “superstition” and corruption from their midst.
We stopped the bus and walked up the lane to the church. Blackbirds perched in the framing beams of the dome muttered and shifted nervously. We entered through an empty window.
Graffiti covered the pillars and whatever lower sections of the walls that had not been blackened by fire and smoke. The sanctuary doors were blasted with bullet holes.
Broken glass and pieces of bricks and plaster covered the ground. The flooring had been torn out and taken, either looted or burned, as had every movable object. On the upper sections of remaining wall, weathered remnants of frescos remained among the soot stains. The style of the paintings indicated that they might date from the early 1800s. High up, almost 3 stories in height, near the charred beams that once supported a beautiful dome, now roofless and open to the sky, hung the crucifix, still crookedly attached by one arm.
It was silent in this abandoned building except for the creaking of the crucifix swinging gently in the breeze, beating softly, steadily, regularly against the wall.
Eerie. Frightening. Unforgettable.
The church was damaged, but still standing. The crucifix still hung high, elevated over all.
Despite the efforts to eradicate it, faith remained. The destruction was great among not only the buildings but the populace. But with the help and grace of God, the Church is being reborn.