Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Observances Throughout Alcovia

It has now been over two weeks since a general cease fire was issued and agreed upon by both sides of the civil conflict in Alcovia. With peace talks still mostly ineffective, but continuing, the war-torn nation has enjoyed its rest from the sound of bombs and guns. Military units have remained in a stand-down status but do remain ready to resume action at a moment's notice.

With the peace, an attempt has been made to return to some semblance of normalcy and on Easter Day, citizens from all over the country gathered, yesterday, for traditional Easter Mass. With over 80% of the nation prescribing to Eastern Orthodox this was a great opportunity to bring people together, regardless on which side of the conflict they found themselves. In churches and chapels, and in some cases in the open air, observances of the holiday were carried out with as much traditional show and ceremony as there could be.

In the eastern village of Grovernia, where a hundred years old church was destroyed in an artillery barrage by government forces, townsfolk gathered in front of the ruin to pray and share a moment of community unity, casting aside all affiliations for the day. Member of local militia stood in the crowd, faces covered so as to protect their identities. No political banners were waved and it seemed that for the moment all sides had set aside their differences.

But all was not peace and celebration. The township of Bartanerni was rocked by violent clashes between local militia and government security forces. While government forces stopped to listen to a broadcast prayer, shots were fired from surrounding structures as mortar fire rained down upon the hapless soldiers. The resulting firefight left 32 dead and countless injured among soldiers, militia and civilians alike. Fighting ended only after two Mi-24 attack helicopters were dispatched to support the pinned NAA troops. Once fighting in the town had ended, the helicopters set to the task of peppering the surrounding hills with fire from their rockets and cannons. 

As the sun set, national and rebel forces all slipped back into all too familiar roles, once again assuming their now usual alert status. One soldier was seen sharing a tender moment with a local elderly woman who had lost her son just days ago in a skirmish outside the village where he was stationed. Despite being on opposite sides of the conflict, the woman bestowed kisses and blessings on the National Army soldier who had held her hand during the evening's mass.

Truly this was a day for miracles in the tragically torn nation of Alcovia.

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