By Dan Moran – Lake County News-Sun
THIRD LAKE -- While many in Lake County might look at events in southeastern Europe and wonder what to make of it, John Plavsic of Grayslake was among those who headed out to the New Gracanica Monastery on Thursday night to participate in moleban, a prayer service offered in the Serbian Orthodox church in times of crisis.
"It is a prayer in a time of need, or for health, usually for someone in dire straits," Plavsic explained. "Tonight it is intended particularly for the Kosovo situation, and generally for Serbians who live in Serbia right now, because of the tense situation there."
As Plavsic underscored, the regional Serbian community has been monitoring developments in Kosovo since Sunday, when a provisional government declared independence, sparking controversy that continues to play out on the world stage.
In the Chicago area, the faithful were drawn to the New Gracanica complex -- which is a replica of the Gracanica of Kosovo, built in the 14th century -- after Bishop Longin, head of the diocese of America and Canada, called for the prayer service.
Nearly everyone in attendance stopped to pick up a candle, light it and place it in a stand near the back of the church, a ritual to honor individuals both living and dead.
"It's asking God for help," said Father Tom Kazich following the hour-long service, which was conducted entirely in Serbian and attended by more than 300 people.
"We are a very small community, with about 150 families that are part of the parish," said Kazich, "but people came tonight from all over the Chicago area and Indiana and Wisconsin."
Earlier in the day, the bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a public announcement condemning the "illegal self-declaration of independence by the so-called Albanian parliament ... (They) have cast shame on themselves as well as their historical path, minding only their bare interests."
But the statement added that "our concern goes to our people, which is deeply and justifiedly embittered by this justice and violence. We know from our ages-long church experience that every violence ends up with the perpetrator's ruin, for, as the proverb says, 'every power is of time, and that of God is eternal.'"
"Therefore, be not afraid, little flock! We stand upright! We are no longer alone as we were in the times of the shameful and bloody bomb attacks against us."
Kazich said events over the last decade, in which violence rocked states in the former Yugoslavia, have affected local Serbians, making services like Thursday's necessary.
"You have to let people come together. People are depressed about this," Kazich said. "What the bishop told us tonight was, we really shouldn't cry, we shouldn't be depressed. God would never allow something like this to continue ... So we have to be patient and wait, and maybe the time will come."