THE ORTHODOX DIOCESE OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
GRACANICA MONASTERY

H.E. Prime Minister
Mr. Tony Blair

Gracanica, July 31, 1999

Your Excellency,

As representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church and a human beings we humbly take this opportunity to express our deepest concern for the systematic campaign of terror to which my people, the spiritual and cultural heritage of our Church in Kosovo are exposed since the arrival of KFOR and the UN Mission.

The United Nations and NATO have taken upon themselves a difficult task to establish peace and stability, protect the cultural heritage and suppress repression. We have wholeheartedly greeted the arrival of the international forces as a relief for all peoples in Kosovo which have gone through a horrible war and destruction caused by one totalitarian regime and its satellites. But now, after two months, the results of the "peace" for our community are devastating: more than 130.000 Serb refugees, hundreds of killed or missing people, thousands of homes destroyed, our most beautiful churches leveled to the ground and turned into rubble.

Our community and we personally feel great regret and sorrow for many Kosovo Albanians who suffered under the regime of President Milosevic and his extremists. But all this suffering occurred in the time of war when there were no mechanisms to prevent and stop the suffering of the civilians. Unfortunately, this what our people and our heritage are suffering now happens when all mechanisms of peace are present in Kosovo together with almost 40.000 KFOR soldiers.

We assure you that the systematic repression and destructions of our churches and monasteries ARE NOT only the consequence of uncontrolled revenge by individual frustrated Albanians. This is a work of professional criminal groups and miners who have explosive and know how to use it. The systematic expulsions in Pristina and the western part of the province, setting on fire of entire non-Albanian quarters of cities all over Kosovo are done either directly or with the tacit approval of the extremist organization called UCK which is responsible for hundreds of innocent victims since the outbreak of hostilities in Kosovo in 1998. We cannot understand why UN and KFOR do not seem to be ready to take a risk to confront more robustly this terrorist organization, or at least its extremist wing, in the way their governments do in their own countries.

The main objective of the UCK has always been very clear - purge all Serbs and other non-Albanians from Kosovo and create de facto a situation in which the international community would be forced to recognize the independence of the province. The independence of Kosovo and Metohija would be a first step for further unification of all "Albanian lands" which is a century old dream of Albanian nationalists. The international community has managed to defeat one destructive regime, but now remains almost helpless while the "Greater Albania" is being created in front of the eyes of the whole world with worst crimes ever conducted in the time of PEACE.

Our Church and our people have suffered a lot from one autocratic regime in the last 50 years. We want to live in peace and democracy in this region with all peoples of good will. We are sure that this is a dream of many Kosovo Albanians who have shared good and evil with their Serb neighbors through centuries. That is why we have accepted to work together with UN on establishing the transitional administration in the province. But as much as we have made efforts to cooperate with the UCK, their activists have intensified their campaign and persecution against our people and our Church. While we were stretching our hand of reconciliation and openly condemned the crimes committed by the Milosevic regime and his supporters among our people, the crimes against the Serb community have multiplied and our monuments and churches have been mercilessly destroyed even with more rage and hatred.

We must say that we do not see sincerity behind the words of the UCK leaders. Even many moderate Albanians feel endangered and see that instead of true freedom for all we have now continuation of crimes and violence, especially against the minorities. Kosovo is now plunged in hands of the Albanian narco-mafia and criminal gangs and has become the most lawless region in Europe. Certain members of the UCK who are directly responsible for many crimes against the Serb and Albanian civilians are still free and even openly negotiate with the highest KFOR officers. UCK self-appointed administration, which de facto rules Kosovo now, does not seem to be ready to cede power to the UN. It is trying to create a fait accompli in which UN will be compelled to recognize a solely Albanian administration which is now in strong hands of powerful Albanian clans run by the UCK commanders and directly connected with the mafia circles.

Therefore we expect that both UNMIK and KFOR should show more determination in establishing true peace and stability in the province. There must be a serious investigation of the latest massacre in Gracko as well as the systematic destructions of our churches and monasteries. The perpetrators of these crimes, especially their organizers, must be publicly named and brought to justice in order that such crimes are prevented in future. The Western countries which invested so much authority to suppress one repression must not have allowed that one repression and terror is replaced by another.

Regretfully, neither of our previous requests to UNMIK have been fulfilled so far: Serbs are still persecuted as animals. Two of our priests were kidnapped and the UCK has done nothing to set them free, although at least one of them was seen kidnapped by the people in UCK uniforms and the UCK leaders are powerful enough to free them. Our people are still being kidnapped and killed every day. The destroyed Serb monuments in Pristina are not only reinstalled to their previous positions but the additional ones were destroyed. Not a single flat or house has been given back to the Serbs evicted from their homes. On the contrary Serb families are constantly expelled from their homes and attacked with such cruelty which can only be compared to that of Nazis against the Jews in the Second World War. Even elderly women are raped and beaten, our people starve in their flats unable to get food. The Serbs in Kosovo have become the people without their freedom and most basic human rights. There is no need to say that the Serbs who now remain in Kosovo as well as many of those who had to leave their homes are innocent and have not contributed at all to the suffering of their neighbors.

Although we sincerely appreciate the efforts of men and women from the KFOR who are doing their best to help us, in our opinion, UN and NATO must clearly define a NEW STRATEGY for Kosovo and Metohija or will be faced with a defeat. UN administration cannot be fully put into action before the KFOR does everything to suppress and disarm gangs of criminals who even run concentration camps for non-Albanians. If the things continue as they are now, Kosovo and Metohija will soon become an ethnically cleansed region ruled by the Albanian extremists, NATO and UN will be forced to admit their failure and a new precedent will be made for extremists all over the world. Despite all the efforts, multiethnic administration will never work properly until the extremists are tolerated to continue their campaign of terror. The extremist leaders MUST be marginalized in the same way as they were marginalized in Bosnia for the sake of peace and better future. The foremost role in this process belongs to NATO which must not allow that the systematic repression and destruction of old monuments are conducted under the umbrella of the most powerful military force in the world.

The words of compassion and understanding for the suffering Albanians, uttered by some Western political leaders, are openly misinterpreted and abused by the Albanian extremists who understand that they have a carte blanche to retaliate against the Serb civilians as they wish. We agree that all responsible for crimes must be brought to justice but the mass retaliation against our unprotected people must not be allowed and tolerated.

We ask you again to show clear determination against the Albanian extremists as you have shown against the Milosevic regime and also to act as decisively on behalf of our suffering people as you rightfully did when the Albanian civilians were suffering. Only in that way your country would prove its leadership and credibility and bring to all of us long awaited peace and freedom.

Sincerely Yours

For Bishop Artemije
The Secretary of the Diocese
Fr. Sava Janjic