Montenegro’s southern coastal city of Bar has been hosting Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Catholics in perfect harmony and peace for centuries.
With a population of approximately 45,000, the city has small historical shops in its old bazaar at the foot of a picturesque hill with a beautiful view.
Called by locals an “exemplary city,” the old town and its narrow streets decorated with colorful flowers, and stairs with cobblestones, attract tourists from around the world.
Muidin Milaimi, head of the Bar’s Islamic Union, told Anadolu the city has a long-living tradition of coexistence of the believers of the three faiths living together in peace.
“Bar is one of the cities where people with different religions and nationalities live in peace,” said Milaimi.
“This tradition of coexistence was started in the time of Mufti Murteza Karaduzovic (1865-1941),” Milaimi said, adding: “Mufti Karadzuzovic gets along very well with the representatives of the Orthodox and Catholic Church because he would come to the old bazaar in Bar every Friday to have a coffee and chat with people of all faiths. Even today, people talk about that time fondly.”
He added that during all religious holidays, leaders of different religions come together to celebrate.
Spirit of unity, friendship
The archbishop of Bar Orthodox Church, Slobodan Zekovic, said the city and its inhabitants have preserved the spirit of unity and friendship for centuries.
“With this feature, Bar is known not only in Montenegro but also in the whole region. This is a great wealth, a heritage that should be preserved. We and the next generations have a great responsibility to protect this richness of unity and coexistence,” said Zekovic.
The deputy archbishop of the Catholic Church, Don Keljmendi Spaci, said that inter-religious relations are at their best in the city.
“It is truly an honor to live here with our Muslim and Orthodox brothers. We live here as God wants people to live together and try to set an example for believers. Visiting each other makes us very happy,” said Zekovic.
Located near the old bazaar, the 361-year-old Omer Pasha Mosque is home to centuries-old cypress trees.
The mosque was built outside the city wall in 1662 by Ottoman stateman Omer Pasha together with his two sons because he was often late for the evening prayer after the gates of the old bazaar were closed at prayer times.
Known as the oldest mosque in the city, Omer Pasha Mosque stands out as a historical place of worship that has survived for centuries.
One of the oldest and most usable churches in Bar, the Church of St. Nicholas, is only 300 meters (984 feet) away from Selimiye Mosque, the largest mosque in the city, perfectly representing the multi-faith identity of the city.
It is known that the church was built in 1863 and is open to worshippers until today.
There is no official information about who built it.
According to the census conducted in Montenegro in 2011, 72.07% of the country’s population is Orthodox, 19.11% Muslim, and 3.44% is Catholic.
Montenegro is home to mostly Montenegrins and Serbs, followed by Bosniaks, Albanians, Roma and Croats, and some other smaller ethnic groups.