Muslims in Bulgaria pull together to rebuild Christian church

Church of St Michael the Archangel in Kozlets,

Muslims in a small village in Bulgaria have raised the funds and contributed the labour to restore a century-old Eastern Orthodox church.

The Muslims managed to put together £800 for the restoration, to save the Church of the Archangel Michael for the village's Christian community who make up about one tenth of the 600 residents.

Kozlets is in the southern Bulgarian province of Haskovo, near the borders of Greece and Turkey.

The restoration of the bell tower cost about £800.

"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 told Haskovo.

The Muslims along with local Christians found the money to repair the belfry, repair the fence around the church and refurbish the interior. 

The bell will now peal out again as the church re-opens for Orthodox Easter, which this year is on 1 May.

The church sexton, Petar, said: "The tables, the floor mats, everything was collected from the people, everything was donated."

Previously, the bell was in a precarious state and it was feared it could have fallen at any time on to the heads of worshippers below.

Beynur explained that in these troubled times, this was a chance to strengthen the bonds between the two faiths.

"From what I can remember my parents, our Muslim community and Christians who once were a majority in the village, we lived together," he said. The communities were united by faith and jointly celebrated each others' holidays. "This is an absolute sign that not only people becoming more strong in faith, but in a village where there are Muslims and Christians, all have played their part, rolled up their sleeves and taken care of their houses of prayer. Kozlets is a true example of tolerance, especially in these times when it is so important and necessary."

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