Bible Society, West Balkan Partnership, Bible projects, Albania, Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Bible translation

June 17, 2019

Edict of Milan Project

This project has enabled us to establish a platform for spreading the Word of God in a secular society such as in our country. After years of suffering and pain brought by the recent war, citizens of Nis have been united around this important spiritual activity that is happening for the first time in our region. Money that is raised in cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Nis on this occasion shows the hunger for spirituality in our society. It is sufficient for printing 21.700 copies of the NT. This means that, thanks to the donation of the BS of Australia, we will be able to distribute 60000 NT’s. For the first time NT will include the annual plan reading whereby we wanted to help and encourage people to read.

Spiritual significant of the project lies in providing opportunities to all people to meet and learn about God in absolute freedom. Freedom is absolute because NT’s are gift and it is the will of every citizens, whether or not he is going to accept it. About the impact it is still early to say but we believe it will be great. About this our Lord Jesus Christ points in the story about a lost sheep and 99 that are not. If only one man turn to faith, impact is so great as the kingdom of heaven. And it is infinitely! Indication of the anniversary and its importance (religious freedom and Christian heritage) is also one of impacts of this project. This campaign will certainly leave the mark in the history of the entire city of Nis and whole Serbia. We pray that the Word of God will touch many hearts and we ask our brothers and sisters in Australia, BS’s staff, volunteers and donors who have enabled this project to pray. This project increases the importance of the Bible Society in whole Serbia it also helps to improve corporation with the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is very important that the Serbian Patriarch signed a memorandum of cooperation on this project.

New testaments are printing in Korea. We expect to get them in September. Every home in Nis each month receive bills for utility costs. Company which distribute these will help us in distribution. Together with bills they will distribute information about NT’s , how and where it can be collected. This means that “tax collectors will be involved in spreading the Good News.” About 70 volunteers will be included in distribution.

On Monday, 23 April, we visited in Niš His Grace Bishop Jovan. On that occasion He blessed Scripture ordering.

In pleasant coversation that lasted more than an hour we talked about details of the distribution as well as how it will be very important to involve the media.

Besides Nis project we discussed the joint project of Balkan partnership – Calling Harvesters. His Grace promised full support for this project.

Together we concluded that organising Bible groups should begin in September when we expect NT’s to arrive to Nis. Young Priest, Father Milan Dragovic, who made a great contribution to the achievement of Nis project, will be one of the first Bible group leaders (Harvesters) in the Diocese of Nis.

In the meantime we will continue to organize lectures related to the Bible.

About Father Milan

Father Milan Dragović is a tall man full of purposeful energy. At only 35, he is one of many young Serbian Orthodox priests who are enriching the Church with their enthusiasm and vision for the future. This makes him a particularly useful contact for the Bible Society in Serbia.

Father Milan first started buying materials from the Bible Society when he was a student in Belgrade. Now married with two sons and one of a team of five priests at a new church in Niš, southern Serbia, dedicated to Constantine I – who was born in Niš in around 272 – and his mother Helena, he is still a keen supporter. One example he gives is that he buys Bible Society New Testaments – around 100 a year – from his own funds to give to couples who ask him to perform their marriage ceremony or to baptise their child.

He can trace his love for the Bible back to an early stage in his life. Like many people whose parents grew up under Communism, it was his grandmother, rather than his parents, who influenced his early Christian teaching. She told him about the Bible with such fervour that owning his own copy became one of his greatest dreams.

This dream came true when, at the age of 13, he was on a school trip and saw somebody selling Bibles on the street. He was determined to buy one, but the price was high and he did not have enough money with him. Undaunted, he borrowed money from his friends and finally made his purchase.

“That Bible was so expensive that it probably cost more than the trip itself!” he concludes, his laughter driving away the tears that the memories bring to his eyes. “But I still have it and it’s very precious to me. I don’t use it now, as I don’t want to damage it.”

Now Father Milan is determined to encourage Bible reading in any way he can. And he is certainly not lacking in ideas. A shortage of funds means that the construction of his church, which began 10 years ago, is still not complete, but he still makes time to visit school religious education classes and introduce initiatives such as providing each member of the Sunday congregation with a leaflet called Voice giving a brief explanation of the Bible passages designated to be read that day.

“This is a simple idea,” he says of the leaflets, “but it has proved very popular. People really feel encouraged to read the Bible at home, and now they are even asking me to send the material to them by email! I produce between 300 and 500 copies and many people want to take several, to share with their family and friends.”

He is also looking ahead to a great opportunity that is approaching: the 1,700th anniversary in 2013 of the issuing by Constantine I and Licinius, his co-emperor, of the Edict of Milan, which legalised Christianity in the Roman Empire. This will be a particularly important event in Niš, Constantine’s birthplace.

“We must give people the opportunity to read the Bible,” Father Milan stresses. “This is why projects like this are so important.”

At the end of September we will be able to provide different testimonies not only from people who received NT’ but also from the people who are involved in distribution.