The Day Will Come by Michael Brown A DEFENSE OF MEDJUGORJE and
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`It Is More Dangerous To Stay At Home' 

Medjugorje: The United Nations still owes a good explanation for its meaningless military showdown in Medjugorje. And the US State Department owes an even better one for including The Blessed Virgin Mary’s chosen village on a list of potentially dangerous towns. The questions remain what purpose tanks are serving in a village of love, hope and peace. And if the State Department seriously expects the people of Medjugorje to start harassing pilgrims who have provided its livelihood for almost 20 years. 


By Jakob Marschner in Bosnia-Hercegovina 

PRAYERS WERE INTERRUPTED, and hearts of pilgrims started beating faster when the UN tanks came rolling into Medjugorje that Tuesday afternoon before Easter. Heavily armed, with uncovered guns and followed by camions and military jeeps the soldiers displayed an aggressive behavior that made the official title “peace-keeping forces” stand out in a light of some absurdity.

       The showdown continued on Wednesday when the same military vehicles showed UN’s landlord status once again. It went on during Easter when helicopters found it opportune to fly over the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary so often that pilgrims and parishioners were left with the suspicion that the operations might serve something else than a strict and pure peace-keeping purpose. Especially so since the flights so often coincided with the celebration of the Mass and the prayer of the Rosary in church. Another odd operation took place one early morning when helicopters flying at tree-top level took pictures of pilgrims while they listened to visionary Vicka Ivanković speaking.

EASTER MONDAY, for some reason, was chosen for the next event that unnecessarily alarmed a lot of Medjugorje’s friends abroad. This day was the one when the media carried a warning from the US State Department, advising American citizens to avoid traveling to a number of named Hercegovinan towns, Medjugorje being one on this list.

       Official explanations told of “disturbances” going on in western Hercegovina, and while there is some truth to this, it is equally true that Medjugorje has been as quiet and peaceful as ever. The parades of tanks and helicopters were the only notable disturbances, and it remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma why Medjugorje was singled out alongside Široki Brijeg, Ljubuški, and others. And why a town like Čitluk was not on the list when the fact remains that disturbances actually took place there.

ALSO LEFT OUT from official explanations was the reason why some cars were admittedly burned and overturned during these few days of minor drama. This was a heated reaction to what the local population, not without some common sense and peasant logic, had come to view as international bank-robbery: The surprising operation of the same UN forces who on April 6th had shut down Hercegovačka Banka. The soldiers, wearing masks and armed with machine guns, looked no different than any other common bank robbers. In Mostar UN forces blew open the doors to enter the bank in the middle of the night. In Medjugorje the soldiers met with a gathering of people asking questions of what was going on in their bank. Other towns had other situations.

       The bank operation was called for because of accusations of an unclear ownership structure as well as accusations of money laundering. Whether or not these accusations are true, closing the bank altogether was still a drastic measure to take – especially so from the viewpoint of the average worker and farmer who might now have to wait for weeks or even months before seeing his money again. And the local economy was not too good in the first place.

       As to what actually happened, and who felt threatened by whom that day in the bank in Medjugorje explanations from UN and the local population do not have very much in common, but the point of focus should remain that no matter what happened it just cannot justify a military showdown of the mentioned proportions going on for four days, five days, and even ten more days.

CHANGE OF HEART and mind is what is needed from UN as well as from the US State Department. Partly it has already come, for the days of tank and helicopter parading came to an end after Easter. The military presence is now as discrete as before. So far so good, but pilgrims and parishioners still have not got an act of contrition, an apology or just an explanation from UN authorities. And now it is unlikely to come: When Spirit Daily called Sarajevo, a spokesman said that UN has no comment to the note of protest that was sent by Medjugorje’s parish priest.

       As to the warning from US State Department the American authorities seem surprisingly ignorant of indisputable historical facts: When the Virgin Mary started appearing the villagers reconciled almost immediately. Age-old hatred and strife was forgiven, “a school of love” was established, and thanks to a protection that can only be viewed as divine Medjugorje later went undamaged through three long years of civil war. People here know nothing but peace, and though they disagree with certain UN policies they also know better than taking that disagreement to the faces of people who have nothing to do with the actions they oppose. In particular State Department failed to consider the unlikeliness, not to say impossibility, of the people of Medjugorje suddenly starting to harass pious pilgrims who have provided their livelihood for more than 15 years. Who on earth will ever saw to pieces the very branch they sit on in the tree?

EVEN TWENTY YEARS after The Blessed Virgin Mary started writing her fairy-tale of love, conversion and peace, these events seem to show that the men in the mansions and domes of the world are still quite far from having grasped what Medjugorje really is. While it cannot be expected that the landlords of the world should acknowledge the truth that the average grandmother shepherd, unceasingly praying the Rosary while watching out for her flock in the fields, does more for peace than the UN and the US State Department will ever come to do, even when taken together, it still should be fair to ask for some honesty and justice. The first of these virtues was violated with the statement that Medjugorje is no longer safe. The second suffered under days of UN mistreatment.

       For the average American pilgrim, luckily, the situation is a quite simple one: There is no need whatsoever to cancel a planned Medjugorje pilgrimage. The war-time quotation of visionary Vicka Ivanković is as true today as it was in the Nineties: “It is not dangerous to go to Medjugorje,” she said whenever she had the opportunity to do so. And equally true is the addition to this statement, a punch line coined by a humorous local soul. Now, grasp it or not in the mansions and domes:

            “It is more dangerous to stay at home.” 

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