Swimmers throughout the majority Serb part of Bosnia competed on Sunday for the ‘Honorable Cross’, marking the Feast of the Epiphany, one of the most important celebrations of the Serb Orthodox religion.
Braving icy rivers, Orthodox Christians commemorate every year on January 19 the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River by plunging into rivers and lakes to retrieve a wooden cross in a purification ritual.
This year many participants said they swam in support for their Serb Orthodox brethren in Montenegro, where the Parliament adopted a law which Serbs living there argue will enable the state to seize Serb Orthodox Church property.
A litany was first held in Banja Luka, the administrative centre of Bosnia’s semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity, followed by the competition at the river Vrbas.
“The sanctities in Montenegro belong to the Church and the people,” said some of the signs held up by some among the thousands of people who gathered for the event.
David Komljenovic, 21, won the competition. It was his first time competing and he told journalists he is happy about the achievement.
The Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency, Milorad Dodik, the Speaker of the RS National Assembly, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, and Banja Luka Mayor, Igor Radojicic, were among those who attended the litany.
The event also took place in Derventa, Trebinje, Bileca and other towns in Republika Srpska.