OF HIS GRACE ARTEMIJE,
BISHOP, THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
(US Congress Hearing
on Kosovo - March 18, 1998) full
text of the hearing Bishop
Mr. Chairman, honorable
members of the Senate and Congress, ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honor
and a privilege to appear before you today 7 years after His Holiness
Patriarch Pavle of Serbia gave testimony in this honorable house. First
and foremost, we want to assure you that we are not here today as emissaries
or apologists for President Slobodan Milosevic and his autocratic regime.
We are here as representatives of Kosovo Serbs who are frightened and
who are under a serious threat of being completely ethnically cleansed
from their homeland.
I will continue with the statement.
Artemije. We are also here to condemn the blatantly aggressive
policy of the Albanian terrorists lead by so-called Kosovo Liberation
Army as well as the excessive police repression. Both policies have
already caused the unnecessary deaths of dozens of innocent people in
Kosovo and Metohija on both sides. The ethnic Albanian terrorist groups
carried out many terrorist attacks over the past 2 years aimed at provoking
of international intervention. The internal goal still remains the same
as before: terrorizing the Kosovo Serbs so that Kosovo can become an
ethnically pure Albanian province. Mr. Milosevic, in turn, unleashed
the police offensive which resulted in the deaths of not only terrorists
but also of innocent civilians like in the recent action in Drenica.
This cycle of violence must be put to an end immediately. Nothing will
be achieved by war except destruction and carnage. Regrettably, we feel
that neither President Milosevic nor the ethnic Albanian leadership
grasps this simple fact. Both sides have learned absolutely nothing
from the Bosnian civil war which threaten to engulf the entire Balkans
with a disastrous armed conflict.
Orthodox Church and the Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija stand
for a peaceful, democratic solution to the current crisis through dialogue.
We also have detailed a proposal for the long term democratic settlement
which, to date, has been ignored both by Mr. Milosevic's regime and
the ethnic Albanian leadership. We present these proposals to this Commission.
Orthodox Church and the Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija condemn
all actions, by any party, which have led during last few years to an
escalation of violence in Kosovo and Metohija. We condemn all terrorist
attacks perpetrated by ethnic Albanian extremists against Serbian civilians,
Serbian officials, ethnic Albanians loyal to the Serbian state, and
the religious monuments of Serbian Orthodox Church. We also condemn
police repression and all excessive and indiscriminate use of police
force, especially against the Albanian civilians. Further, we condemn
the refusal of the Milosevic regime to institute open and sincere dialogue
with the ethnic Albanian community to achieve a peaceful settlement.
Likewise, we condemn the refusal of the ethnic Albanian leadership to
embrace the path of peaceful dialogue with the Serbian authorities and
the Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija as well as their unwillingness
to condemn armed attacks by the Albanian terrorist groups. We support
the general condemnation of these terrorist acts by the United States
administration and entire international community. Those attacks were
calculated to lead to an escalation of violence and in fact have done
so. We have detailed documentation of these attacks perpetrated in these
last 2 years by the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, especially in
Drenica region. We present this documentation to this Commission as
We appeal to
this Commission to understand that the conflict in Kosovo is not between
the Serbian and Albanian people, but between an undemocratic regime
on one side and a secessionist extremism on the other. We appeal to
the United States to reject simplistic calls for military intervention
in order to hand state power over to the ethnic Albanian leadership.
Such an action, in light of the history of Kosovo and Metohija before
1989, would lead to the ethnic cleansing of the Serbian Christian people
from the ancient heart of our homeland.
We, on the contrary,
strongly believe in democratic, multiethnic, and multi-cultural Serbia.
We believe that on this basis a cohabitation of all ethnic communities
can be achieved. We support the idea of civic society in which all its
citizens will have equal rights. We insist on full respect of the human
and minority rights according to the highest international standards.
We firmly oppose any change of international borders because such precedent
would cause instability in the neighboring countries and the whole region.
Our vision of the future of inter-ethnic relations lies in the full
democratization of political systems, rather than in further territorial,
political, and economic fragmentation of the Balkans. We strongly believe
that every political issue cannot be used to raise new territorial claims.
Therefore, our regional approach is an initial framework for the future
political dialogue in order to achieve a long term stability and cooperation
in the Balkans.
We call upon
this Commission and the United States to endorse the proposals of the
Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija
for a genuine dialogue, without preconditions. Only in that way a peaceful,
democratic settlement of the Kosovo crisis for all people of Serbia
regardless of their nationality or religion can be achieved.
We express our
deep sympathy for all innocent victims in Kosovo and Metohija and we
pray to God to grant us wisdom and courage to preserve peace and mutual
understanding because no one can build his own happiness on misfortune
of his neighbor.
FROM THE DISCUSSION:
Let me ask the Bishop some questions. Let me first make an observation
to the Bishop.
I thought his
statement that the conflict in Kosovo is not between the Serbian and
Albanian people but between an undemocratic regime on one side and a
secessionist extremism on the other side. Clearly, the people have been
able to live together, as they were able to live together in Bosnia.
The population of Sarajevo was a truly international, culturally diverse,
ethnically diverse people living together.
Has the Orthodox
Church in Belgrade spoken out as forthrightly and as strongly as you
have spoken out, Bishop, today with respect to Milosevic's inflaming
the ethnic passions of the people in Belgrade and in Serbia against
a resolution of this issue?
First of all, all we are doing is with the direct blessing and support
of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle and other bishops, colleagues who took
parts in the national church assemblies where they crystallized our
positions. It means that the whole Orthodox Church in Serbia is supporting
what we are saying here today. But I would ask for a little patience
to be allowed to say a few words about the position of the Serbian Orthodox
Church in the last 50 years is Kosovo. I'll try to be very brief.
Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church was the bishop of Raska and
Prizren, that is the Kosovo area for 34 years, from 1957 to 1990. He
was patiently following the suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Church
and its people from the Albanian separatists. He regularly informed
the Holy Sinod of Bishops and our church. There is ample documentation
on that matter.
Church sent from time to time its appeals to the Serbian officials and
the governmental institutions at that time and asked that the government
protects the Serbian people in Kosovo and Metohija from violence of
the ethnic Albanians of that region. But nothing changed.
In the whole
series of these appeals, it is of special importance the letter written
by the Holy Sinod of Bishops on the May 19, 1969, and it was written
to President Tito. In that letter, among other things, it is said, this
violence in Kosovo sometimes it calms down. But it appears on the other
side in much more serious form. In the last one year, it manifested
in very difficult forms. It is not only the destruction of crops in
our fields, the cutting of wood would damage the Monastery Devich and
others, a destruction of their tombstones like in Kosovo, Drenica, and
other places. But also the physical attacks, even on nuns.
Mr. Hoyer. Excuse
me. Bishop, I understand your position that there have been in fact
wrongs committed against the ethnic Serbian minority in Kosovo. I have
heard those accounts and appreciate your position on that.
You have indicated
that the Orthodox Church in facts does support your statement, which,
of course, was my question. Let me ask you something if I might, sir.
You indicate that you strongly believe in a democratic, multiethnic,
multi-cultural Serbia. What is the position of the Church as it relates
to a democratic vote in Kosovo to determine their status.
According to the opinion of any Serbs and the Serbian Orthodox Church,
Kosovo is a constituent part of Serbia. If there should be a voting
about Kosovo, there should be a voting on the whole territory of Serbia
because Kosovo didn't exist as a separate administrative unit.
Mr. Hoyer. Bishop,
I understand that answer. I presume, therefore, that the ethnic Albanian
minority of Kosovo, as it relates to all of Serbia, would lose such
an election. Do you believe that the status of Kosovo was legally changed
in 1989 by Mr. Milosevic?
Actually, the status of Kosovo was changed in 1981. The Albanians were
granted autonomy, wide autonomy, in the 1974 constitution with many
elements of statehood. During that autonomy, they made great pressures
which caused displacement of many Serbian people from Kosovo. They showed
great impatience. So, in 1981, they made an insurrection asking for
the status of republic. In that way, they actually abolished their autonomy.
And in 1990s,
the regime of Mr. Milosevic, whom I don't have any intention to justify,
he only reduced and limited the rights of that autonomy in order to
protect the existence of Serbs in Kosovo. Concerning the human rights,
they are not denied to the Albanians in Kosovo. They don't want to use
them in the Serbian state. In that way, they're making a pressure on
the international community to realize their final aim that is the secession
of Kosovo from Serbia.
Mr. Hoyer. Bishop
I think if Serbia and the whole region are democratized, the idea which
we are supporting firmly, I think that we may live together in Serbia
and Kosovo as we lived before. That is that Serbia is a multiethnic
and multicultural state.
Mr. Hoyer. And
Bishop, last question on this issue. To what extent would that accord
to the people of Kosovo, both in Serbian and Albanian ethnic extraction,
the right to self determination?
Would you please repeat to understand the question better, please?
Mr. Hoyer. I
understand what the Bishop said about living together. I think that
would be the objective of everybody, that that could be done as it is
in Bosnia. My question to you is, however, to what extent would a resolution
of this matter require the ability of those who live in Kosovo to democratically
determine their own policies?
We want that in that dialogue about Kosovo beside the Serbian state
and the Kosovo Albanians also take part, the representatives of the
Kosovo Serbs who are living there, who are not mentioned either by the
Belgrade regime. Unfortunately also not by the international community.
We speak a lot about the violation of human rights of Albanian population.
We agree that there is a lot of evidence in that sense. But also we
Serbs are also deprived of many human rights, not only in Kosovo and
Metohija, but also all Serbia, unfortunately.
That's why we
are talking about the necessity of a democratic solution.
Mr. Hoyer. Thank
I must say that concerning the present necessity for the people who
are in difficulty, I am assuring you it is the thing to be done now.
We must find
a way to help the people who are suffering now on both sides. We have
been begging for years on that, that the worst is prevented. We're not
speaking about a history from 500 years ago. We speak about that what
happened yesterday because we must know that the problem of Kosovo didn't
start two weeks ago when there was this action.
Because on the
other hand, if the international community takes only one side, they
are not going to be discouraged but provoked. Furthermore, the sanctions
which are put upon the Serbian people and which are possible to be imposed
again, they're not actually targeted at the target. They're actually
making a bad influence on the people. The one side, we cannot trample
upon the lives of another and I think that if there is a way to make
them have a dialogue and the economic development of the whole area
is started, and the general democratization, we can live together. That
is my opinion.