The Muslim community in a Bulgarian village have raised funds and contributed their labour to restore a century-old Orthodox Christian church.
For the first time in decades, the bell of the small church in the village of Kozlets, in the southern Bulgarian province of Haskovo which borders Greece and Turkey, will peal again.
The restoration of the bell tower cost 2000 leva (about 1000 euro).
“It was possible that it would fall and bring down the roof with it. This very much worried the Christians in the village. So we decided to raise money,” village mayor Kadir Beynur was reported as saying by Bulgarian television station bTV.
The village of Kozlets has about 600 residents, of whom about a tenth are Christians.
Muslims provided the money for the repair of the belfry, and repaired the fence around the church. Further money was raised for renovations to the interior of the church, including the buying of curtains, bTV reported.
Built 100 years ago, with the whole village joining in the building, the Church of Archangel Michael is open again, as adherents of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church prepare for their faith’s holiest day, Easter, celebrated in 2016 on May 1 according to the Eastern Orthodox Christian calendar.
The church sexton, Petar, knows who gave every item donated. “The tables, the floor mats, everything was collected from the people, everything was donated,” he said.
Now all that remains is for a canopy to be made for the church, to provide a place for people to wait out of the snow and rain if they arrive early before the church is unlocked – by Petar, keeper of the keys – for services.
There will also be a new garden. A businessman who bought the property next to the church has promised a donation of fruit trees.
Of Bulgaria’s national population of about 7.1 million, the large majority declare themselves to be Bulgarian Orthodox Christians. The next-largest religious grouping is Muslims, numbered in the 2011 census at more than 577 000, about eight per cent of the population.