An Orthodox Christian church famed for its valuable icons was set alight in southern Macedonia overnight, authorities said Tuesday, as religious tension between Christians and minority Muslims grew over a carnival in which men dressed as women in burqas and mocked the Quran.

Firefighters extinguished the fire late Monday in the two century-old Sveti Nikola church, in the village of Labunista near the town of Struga. The church’s roof was partly destroyed but its icons were not damaged, the fire service said.

Hours before the fire, Muslim leaders had appealed for calm among community members.

The Jan. 13 Vevcani festival prompted angry, sometimes violent demonstrations by Muslims, who are nearly all ethnic Albanian and make up 33 percent of the country’s 2.1 million population and accuse the majority of stoking hatred.

Ethnic tension has been simmering in this small Balkan country since the end of an armed rebellion in 2001, when ethnic Albanian rebels fought government forces for about eight months, seeking greater rights for their community. The conflict left 80 people dead, and ended with the intervention of NATO peacekeepers.

Continue Reading on www.boston.com