February 15, 2004

ERP KiM Newsletter Special Edition

Bishop Artemije at the Russian Orthodox Church in Washington D.C.

During his visit to the United States from Jan 28 - Feb 12, 2004 His Grace Bishop Artemije visited the Russian Orthodox cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington D.C. and spoke to the congregation about the suffering of the Orthodox church and Christians in Kosovo and Metohija despite the presence of NATO led peacekeepers and the UN mission. In this special edition on this event ERP KIM Info-service is enclosing the introductory text by Rev. Fr. Victor Potapov, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Cathedral, as well as the full transcript of the speech by Bishop (Vladyka) Artemije on the situation in which the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija lives today.

We would like to thank to Fr. Victor for granting us these texts and photos as well as for his continuous support of our suffering Church and Christians in Kosovo and Metohija in the last several years.


Fr. Victor Potapov (left) with Bishop Artemije in the parish hall of the
Russian Orthodox cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2004

"Crucified Kosovo" - Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren in Washington D.C.
A reception was held on Monday evening, February 2, in the Parish Hall of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington DC, for His Grace the Most-reverend Artemije, Bishop of Raska and Prizren, of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Addressing an audience that filled the hall to overflowing, His Grace told of the current state of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija. Accompanying Vladyka were his secretary, Hieromonk Symeon, and Abbot Vasily, Father Superior of the Sopocani Monastery. The day before his talk, Vladyka attended and prayed at the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. At the conclusion of the service, he greeted the faithful, bestowing upon each his hierarchical blessing and, as a memento, giving each person a little icon of St. Savva.

Bishop Artemije's speech: Current situation in the Orthodox Church in Kosovo
These new crimes against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, especially the attacks against Serbian holy places, make it clear to anyone who has eyes to see with that the situation in the Kosovo region has not improved at all, and that the Serbs and their holy places are still objects of open persecution and terrorist activities. And all this is taking place in the presence and under the administration of the United Nations forces. After this brief review of facts it should be clear that the prospects for survival of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and particularly the prospects for the return of those banished from the region, are very poor. The fact that the region of Kosovo and Metohija is in the state of complete chaos was recently pointed out by the Kosovo ombudsman Marek Anthony Novicky. In his official report on human and civil rights submitted in Pristina he says that as regards the respect for human rights Kosovo is still the "black hole" of Europe and the entire world. Nevertheless, UNMIK continues to ignore the facts on which this statement was founded.

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"Crucified Kosovo" - Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren in Washington D.C.

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A reception was held on Monday evening, February 2, in the Parish Hall of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington DC, for His Grace the Most-reverend Artemije, Bishop of Raska and Prizren, of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Addressing an audience that filled the hall to overflowing, His Grace told of the current state of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija. Accompanying Vladyka were his secretary, Hieromonk Symeon, and Abbot Vasily, Father Superior of the Sopocani Monastery. The day before his talk, Vladyka attended and prayed at the Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. At the conclusion of the service, he greeted the faithful, bestowing upon each his hierarchical blessing and, as a memento, giving each person a little icon of St. Savva.

The Washington talk had first been presented on January 21, 2004 in Moscow at the opening of the 14th Annual Conference of the Orthodox St. Tikhon's Theological Institute. Bishop Artemije began by saying:

"Kosovo was crucified, and five years later it still hangs upon the cross. The profound respect for the crucified victim forces everyone to remain silent in front of the cross. Even the Mother of God kept silent in front of her Son's Cross, but tears never ceased to speak.

As the Orthodox bishop of Kosovo and Metohija I do not merely stand in front of the cross of Kosovo crucified, I am myself crucified on that same cross. That is why it is hard for me to speak about it. And yet, I cannot keep silent, because I am called to speak. If only I were granted the power of thunder or given a trumpet of Jericho with which to make known and bear witness to what has been happening in Kosovo and Metohija in the last five years!

Kosovo and Metohija today—and this word "today" covers the period from 1999 to this day, and will continue beyond today—resembles more than anything else a Roman Coliseum of the early days of Christianity. In it are present the torturers, the martyrs and the beasts, all together, all at the same time. It is a blood-soaked place where beasts devour innocent Christians while the spectators—which in this case is the whole world—watch what is happening through mass media and, in their enjoyment of the spectacle, are themselves transformed into beasts. And there is no end to this gory orgy.

In this tragedy, the Serbian people are cast in the role of the victim. It is by God's will that I am the spiritual leader of that people. That is why I find it difficult to speak of my own suffering and of the suffering of my people in cold, scientific, academic terms. Feelings run high in a Coliseum. Of course, there are various kinds of feelings, depending on the role one is asked to play—the role of the victim, the role of the beast or the role of the spectator enjoying the performance…"

Later in his talk in Washington, Bishop Artemije explained to his large audience that for Serbs, Kosovo is not simply a geographic space, but is a spiritual, supernatural concept:
"What is Kosovo for the Serbs and for Serbia? It is what Jerusalem is for the Jews. It is the heart of one's body, the hearth of one's home. Kosovo was, Kosovo is, the cradle of Serbian statehood, Serbian culture, Serbian spirituality. There lie our deepest national roots; there stand our most majestic Orthodox holy places; there lives our sacred heritage, left us by the Nemanjic dynasty.

This is why, after the name of God, Kosovo is the most sacred word in the Serbian language. It signifies not only a territory, not only a geographic concept. Its meaning is much broader and higher than the meaning of such simple concepts. This word is a symbol of spiritual values, of eternal Christian values which make life worth living and which are worth dying for. This spiritual, this mystical content was given to Kosovo by the famous Kosovo battle, which took place in the year 1389. This battle was the historical turning point dividing the history of the Serbian people into the pre-Battle of Kosovo and the post-Battle of Kosovo periods. The profound meaning with which the Battle of Kosovo was invested in the consciousness of the Serbian people is rooted in the conscious choice made by Prince Lazar and all his knights and through them by the entire Serbian people. The choice was between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. They chose the Kingdom of Heaven; they chose the eternal Christian values and objectives.

The Holy Prince Lazar went to the Field of Kosovo to fight a most powerful enemy and his countless Turkish hordes. Prince Lazar did not go to war in order to conquer lands belonging to another; he went to war to defend his own land. He did not enslave other peoples; he protected his own people from the enslavement by another. He did not force his Faith upon another; he defended his own Faith. That was the Kosovo choice; that is the Kosovo legacy. That is the stronghold of Serbian history. Kosovo thereafter became a synonym for any suffering endured for the sake of truth, justice and faith, "for the venerable Cross and golden freedom."'

Bishop Artemije went on to describe the tragic fate of the Serbs who remained in Kosovo, Serbs forced to live in enclaves reminiscent of concentration camps. He also told of the desecration and destruction of a multitude of Orthodox churches. Then Vladyka turned to the numbers: He reported that during four and one-half years in which international peace-keeping forces have been in the land of Kosovo, i.e. between June10, 1999 and the end of 2003, there were 6,392 attacks made against Serbs, resulting in 1,197 Serbs killed, 1,305 Serbs wounded, and 1,138 Serbs kidnapped. Today we know that 155 of the kidnapping victims were killed, 13 escaped, and 95 were released. The fate of the remaining 863 Serbs is as yet unknown.

Following Bishop Artemije's talk, Belgrade video journalist Lidya Kujundjic's film "Crucified Kosovo," a film of staggering emotional intensity, was shown. Ms. Kujundjic was in attendance at its presentation in Washington. The film, which features chant and other musical accompaniment, is an exceptionally graphic documentary. It begins with a depiction of the great holy sites of Kosovo – Vysokij Decani, Gracanica, Pec, Crna Reka, and others - that endured throughout the 500 years of subjugation under the Ottoman yoke and throughout the recent war. In the second part, we witness scenes of peaceful church life in Kosovo and Metohije before the war of 1999. The concluding portion of the film documents funerals of Serbs murdered by the Muslims and the barbarous destruction of Orthodox holy places. The film ends with a close-up of the sad and prayerful, ascetic face of Hieromonk Khariton seen in profile; a tear slowly moves down his left cheek. Abbot Vasilije of Sopocani Monastery, who was sitting next to the author of these words, whispered "Fr. Khariton was martyred." Receiving this news made our impressions of the evening with Bishop Artemije even more powerful.

The evening concluded with questions from the audience. In a series of questions phrased in different ways, Vladyka Artemije was repeatedly asked the single question: "What should the Serbs in Kosovo do?" Vladyka responded: "We must pray and hope, we must patiently endure and remain in our martyred Kosovo and Metohije, together with our holy places, with the graves of our ancestors, and with firm assurance that God also has the answer to this problem."

Archpriest V. Potapov
Washington


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Vladyka Artemije preaching at the St. John's Cathedral in Washington D.C.

Bishop Artemije's speech - Current situation of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija

We are enclosing the full transcript of the speech by Bishop Artemije at the St. John's Russian Orthodox Church parish hall in Washington D.C.

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To bear our cross—that is our plight!
But it ends not with crucifixion.
So that we may reach Resurrection
The Cross leads us towards the light.
Without the Cross there is no Resurrection!


Kosovo was crucified, and five years later it still hangs upon the cross. The profound respect for the crucified victim forces everyone to remain silent before the cross. Even the Mother of God kept silent in front of her Son's Cross, but tears never ceased to speak.

As the Orthodox bishop of Kosovo and Metohija I do not merely stand in front of the cross of Kosovo crucified, I am myself crucified on that same cross. That is why it is hard for me to speak about it. And yet, I cannot keep silent, because I am called to speak. If only I were granted the power of thunder or given a trumpet of Jericho with which to make known and bear witness to what has been happening in Kosovo and Metohija in the last five years!

Kosovo and Metohija today—and this word "today" covers the period from 1999 to this day, and will continue beyond today—resembles more than anything else a Roman Coliseum of the early days of Christianity. In it are present the torturers, the martyrs and the beasts, all together, all at the same time. It is a blood-soaked place where beasts devour innocent Christians while the spectators—which in this case is the whole world—watch what is happening through mass media and, in their enjoyment of the spectacle, are themselves transformed into beasts. And there is no end to this gory orgy.

In this tragedy, the Serbian people is cast in the role of the victim. It is by God's will that I am the spiritual leader of that people. That is why I find it difficult to speak of my own suffering and of the suffering of my people in cold, scientific, academic terms. Feelings run high in a Coliseum. Of course, there are various kinds of feelings, depending on the role one is asked to play—the role of the victim, the role of the beast or the role of the spectator enjoying the performance.

I shall try, however, to put aside my feelings and allow the facts and figures to speak for themselves. Let them be the only speakers and witnesses here. After all, facts are incorruptible, and figures do not lie. They speak the language of truth and sincerity. Kosovo! What is Kosovo for the Serbs and for Serbia. It is what Jerusalem is for the Jews. It is the heart of one's body, the hearth of one's home. Kosovo was, Kosovo is the cradle of Serbian statehood, Serbian culture, Serbian spirituality. There lie our deepest national roots; there stand our most majestic Orthodox holy places; there lives our sacred heritage left us by the Nemanjic dynasty.

This is why, after the name of God Kosovo, is the most sacred word in the Serbian language. It signifies not only a territory, not only a geographic concept. Its meaning is much broader and higher than the meaning of such simple concepts. This word is a symbol of spiritual values, of eternal Christian values which make life worth living and which are worth dying for. This spiritual, this mystical content was given to Kosovo by the famous Kosovo battle, which took place in the year 1389. This battle was the historical turning point dividing the history of the Serbian people into the pre-Battle of Kosovo and the post-Battle of Kosovo periods. The profound meaning with which the Battle of Kosovo was invested in the consciousness of the Serbian people is rooted in the conscious choice made by Prince Lazar and all his knights and through them by the entire Serbian people. The choice was between the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. They chose the Kingdom of Heaven; they chose the eternal Christian values and objectives.

The Holy Prince Lazar went to the Field of Kosovo to fight a most powerful enemy and his countless Turkish hordes. Prince Lazar did not go to war in order to conquer lands belonging to another. He went to war to defend his own land. He did not enslave other peoples; he protected his own people from the enslavement by another. He did not force his faith upon another; he defended his own faith. That was the Kosovo choice; that is the Kosovo legacy. That is the stronghold of Serbian history. Kosovo thereafter became a synonym for any suffering endured for the sake of truth, justice and faith, "for the venerable cross and golden freedom." Our history, from the Battle of Kosovo to this day, some 600 years and more, is replete with suffering. And what is happening today? Today we find ourselves at the very apex of our suffering. However, the causes of our suffering did not arise yesterday. Their roots are centuries old. It would take too long to speak albeit briefly about them. So we shall talk only about the most recent events which began in June 1999 with the start of the international mission in Kosovo, the arrival of the armed forces of NATO and KFOR and the UN civilian administration with its UNMIK forces.

When we speak of the suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija we must speak of two distinct areas of suffering:

1. The suffering of the living Church, that is to say the suffering of the Orthodox people and
2. Destruction of Christian monuments—churches and monasteries, destruction of our cultural heritage and of our cemeteries.

1. The clash between two extreme "isms", on the one hand the secessionism of the Kosovo Albanians and, on the other, the totalitarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic brought about tragic clashes in Kosovo and Metohija in which were lost innocent lives on both the Albanian and the Serbian sides. These were followed by a three month-long period of bombing of Serbia and particularly of Kosovo and Metohija by NATO. Huge material losses were sustained; more innocent victims were killed, this time among the peaceful citizens in Serbia proper. We were constantly at risk of becoming part of "collateral damage" which is the name the Western "humanists" give to innocent victims. Everybody waited impatiently for the bombing to cease, while we in Kosovo waited also for the arrival of the international peace-keeping forces. We were convinced that they would indeed defend the peaceful population from the vengeance of rabid terrorists who acted either in organized groups or as individuals, or masquerading under the name of the infamous KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army).

At last, on June 10, 1999 a military-technical agreement was signed in Kumanovo on the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army and the Serbian police from the territory of Kosovo and Metohija, thus officially ending the war and the NATO bombing. Unfortunately, the arrival of KFOR did not bring "peaceful life for all citizens" as foreseen by the UN Security Council resolution. Peace and freedom were given only to the Kosovo Albanians. For the members of all other nationalities, but especially for the Serbs, this marked the beginning of unheard of sufferings and indescribable crimes perpetrated against unarmed people whom no one was interested in defending.

Together with the arrival of international forces, organized units of KLA, which were trained in Albania, came to Kosovo and Metohija. In addition to these, there came to Kosovo a great many other groups and individuals who had never before lived in Kosovo. They were attracted by the opportunity for unlimited robbery, revenge, murder, persecution, rape, kidnapping and torture of the Serbs, the Gypsies, the Muslims, the Gorani and other non-Albanians, who had lived peacefully in Kosovo and Metohija until then.

In the course of a single month, over seven hundred thousand Albanian refugees returned to Kosovo and Metohija. Many of them had become "refugees" because they were encouraged or forced to do so by the KLA or Albanian political leaders, in order to create in the eyes of the world community the strongest possible impression of a "human catastrophe" providing thereby both a cause for and the justification of the NATO intervention in Serbia. It was a heart-rending scene. On the one hand the entry of endlessly long columns of returning Albanians, triumphant and spurred on by their KFOR escorts and, on the other, the exodus of equally long columns of new refugees of banished Serbs and other non-Albanians also escorted by the KFOR. But these KFOR escorts did not defend the Serbs from violence; they were there to facilitate their departure from Kosovo and Metohija. Many crimes, many murders and robberies were committed before the very eyes of KFOR soldiers but they never reacted, never did anything to defend the victims. The Serbs were thrown out of their homes, into the streets, into the arms of KFOR soldiers who simply helped them on the way out of Kosovo.


Christianity is exposed to attacks of extremist Muslim terrorists
Traces of Albanian barbarism in Kosovo and Metohija
ruins of the Serbian Orthodox Catherdral of the Holy Trinity in Djakovica


In these first months, from June to September 1999, 230,000 Serbs together with 50,000 other non-Albanians, mostly Gypsies, Ashkalis (Gypsies of Turkish origin) and Bosnians, were banished from Kosovo. Banishment of these nationalities continues to this day, albeit at a much lower rate.

So the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo took place under the "protection" of KFOR and under the administration of UNMIK. This was particularly true of towns, which until then were to a high degree multiethnic. At this moment there are no Serbs, or almost none in any Kosovo town. The only exception is Kosovska Mitrovica, and even there the Serbs have remained only in the northern part of the town. Pec, Djakovica, Prizren, Urosevac, Vucitrn, Klina, Istok and other towns are virtually cleansed of all Serbs. In Pristina, where in 1999 lived 40,000 Serbs, there are now under 200 of them left; and they all live in one apartment house, in total isolation, without any possibility of stepping out of the building on their own. Every day we received news of persecuted, kidnapped or murdered Serbs from all parts of the Kosovo region. It was heart-rending to witness these crimes which the Albanians perpetrated against the Serbs, against their homes, their property, against anything that bore signs of belonging to or having to do with the Serbs. More than 1300 Serbs have been murdered in the most atrocious manner. Approximately the same number of Serbs have been kidnapped, and their fate remains unknown to this day. Tens of thousands of dwellings have been burned down or demolished; hundreds of villages have been razed to the ground.

In spite of it all, one-third of the Serbian population has remained in Kosovo. They number about 135 thousand. All of them live in smaller or larger enclaves, which frequently bring to mind concentration camps or ghettos. This is the "Serbian Archipelago" of Kosovo and Metohija, whose small islands are surrounded on all sides by a stormy sea of Albanians. These Serbs, who in spite of all the suffering, misery and oppression had chosen to remain in Kosovo and Metohija, became citizens outside of the law, deprived of all basic human and national rights. In the first place they are deprived of the right to live. To this day, anybody can with impunity attack, kill or kidnap a Serb wherever he or she might appear. They are deprived of the right of movement, as for a longtime we could not take one step outside our enclaves without a KFOR or UNMIK escort. The Serbs are deprived of their right to work and to live by the fruits of their labor. After the return of the Albanians, all Serbs were fired from their jobs and thrown out of their firms and enterprises; they were thrown out of all institutions. They could not even work in their fields and in their gardens as even there they were subject to attacks, killings and kidnappings by Albanian terrorists. The Serbs are deprived of adequate healthcare as in all hospitals and health centers are in the hands of Albanians and have become ethnically pure. In hospitals today, there is not a single Serbian doctor, nor a single Serbian patient. Again the only exception is the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica where the Serbs have remained. All schools, all educational institutions are also in the hands of Albanians. For the most part, Serbian children are taught in private homes and basements.

These are the conditions in which the Serbs live. This is the life the Serbs lead even as we speak. True, the frequency of attacks and murders has decreased. However, it is not because security has improved, but simply because in many places there are no more Serbs remaining; there is no one left to kill. Nevertheless, Kosovo is still in the grip of such tendencies and psychoses. Suffice it to remember the violence and the crimes committed against the Serbs last year, in 2003.

In the first months of 2003 there were frequent attacks and incidents of provocation against the Serbs throughout the Kosovo region. Some of the victims were the Serbs in the vicinity of the town of Obilic. The Serbs in that area were frequently attacked in the course of 2002 also. (There were six attacks in the month of October 2002 alone.) On January 20, 2003, a hand grenade was thrown into the house of Slavisa Vukadinovic in the village of Janjine Vode near the town of Obilic. No one was hurt on this occasion, but great material damage was caused. A few days later, on February 6, a hand grenade was thrown into the house of Slobodan Todorovic near Oblic, and on April 10 the house of Pavle Milic was burned down.

Similar incidents happened in other places. On Good Friday, on April 25, 2003 a 66 year-old Serbian woman, Smiljka Andjelkovic, was severely beaten in her home in Lipljan. The woman was at home alone at the time and was found by her husband Ljubinko as she lay in her kitchen bleeding and with severe head wounds. There was blood also on the chair with which the old woman's was beaten about her head.

The same day we received sad news from Gnjilane. The Albanians went into the town library, took out several thousands of books in the Serbian language and dumped them on the rubbish heap. Among these books were the works of the Nobel laureate Ivo Andric, the poet Desanka Maksimovic and Njegos. Unfortunately, this barbaric act, reminiscent of the burning of books in Germany under the Nazis, was not an isolated incident of its kind in Kosovo and Metohija. Immediately after the end of the war in 1999, after the arrival of the international mission with its KFOR and UNMIK forces many thousands of Serbian books were thrown out of public libraries by the Albanians. This was also the fate of the books in private libraries wherever their owners did not manage to evacuate them in time.

On May 3, 2003, just a few days after Pascha, a whole series of incidents took place in the village of Suvi Do near the town of Istok. Milan and Milorad Jeftic, Serbian residents of the village, were injured when an Albanian bus ran them down intentionally. Three days later, on May 6 Albanians hurled rocks on a bus owned by the firm "Kosmetprevoz" which carried school children from Kosovska Mitrovica back to Suvi do. On the same day some Albanians attacked Dejan Jeftic, a taxi driver from the same village. His injuries were such that he had to be transported to the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica where he staid hospitalized for a long time.

The next tragedy in Kosovo and Metohija took place on May 17 in the village of Vrbovac near Vitina, when some Albanians killed Zoran Markovic, a teacher of Russian, as he worked in his field outside the village. The Albanians shot him several times in the chest and the head and then threw him in a nearby river, where he was later discovered by KFOR soldiers. The following day Albanians beat up a ninety year-old man by the name of Slavko Stamenkovic in his own home. About the same time they tried to kidnap Stanko Nisic in the neighboring village of Klokot.

In the beginning of the following month, in the night between June 3 and 4, another atrocity was committed by Albanians in Obilic. Slobodan Stolic (aged 74), his wife Radmila and son Ljubinko were all killed in their home by blows to their heads with a blunt object. This crime, as so many others, was condemned by the representatives of UNMIK and by some Albanian leaders but in a purely pro-forma fashion, and no further steps were taken. Perpetrators were never caught, and this failure to bring criminals to justice only encouraged the terrorists to continue with their orgy of blood-spilling in Kosovo and Metohija.

Then, on July 6, in the settlement of Devet Jugovici, not far from Pristina, about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, in broad daylight, some Albanians set fire to the home of Nebojsa Stamenkovic. The house was burned to the ground, while Nebojsa, miraculously, survived. This is the method used by the Albanians to try to force the remaining Serbs to leave. In as much as neither KFOR nor UNMIK forces are doing anything to protect the Serbs, in as much as this failure to do anything encourages the Albanians to continue with their terrorist activities, the situation of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija is becoming increasingly difficult and unbearable with every passing day.

However, what happened on August 13 in the village of Gorazdevac was a crime of such unprecedented viciousness that it overshadowed everything that happened before. Albanian terrorists opened fire on innocent children while they were bathing in a river. Two children were killed; five others received such serious injuries that some of them are still being treated in a Belgrade hospital. It happened on the very day the new chief of UNMIK, Mr. Harri Holkeri, began his official duties in Kosovo. Astounded by this "welcome" on the part of the Albanians, Holkeri promised that perpetrators would be apprehended and tried. This promise, as all preceding promises, has remained a dead letter.

Much time and much paper would be needed just to give a list of all attacks on the Serbs. But even these brief remarks must surely give you a clear picture of apartheid which is rampant in Kosovo and Metohija in the presence and under the administration of the international community.

Nevertheless, we cannot leave out the recent incident involving a Russian delegation of the Fund of Andrew the Fist Called which visited Kosovo and Metohija on Christmas in 2004. In spite of the heavy escort, consisting of ten armored vehicles and helicopters in the air, in a well-organized attack, the Albanians hurled rocks at the Russian delegation in the village of Decani. The members of the delegation, which included a member of Parliament, Sergey Shcheblygin, could see for themselves that the war of the barbarians against civilization is still going on. Fr. Sergey Popov, also a member of the delegation, said that he would remember the Christmas that he celebrated with the Serbs until the day he died.

We are convinced that the Serbian tragedy in Kosovo and Metohija, which has been unfolding for these past five years, has opened the eyes of the Russian public in as much as everything that is happening there might be just a dress rehearsal of what the West is intending to do to Russia.

2. As concerns the suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Church in terms of Orthodox churches and cemeteries, we have already said that Albanian extremists are bent on destroying everything that can be identified as Serbian. Their first and foremost target are our churches and monasteries. The exact number of destroyed and damaged holy places cannot be determined as we have no free access to all of our holy places, not even with a KFOR escort. However, we have established beyond any doubt that 50 churches were destroyed in the first three months after the end of the war (between June and September 1999). By the end of that year, this number rose to almost 100. Today we know of about 115 destroyed and desecrated churches and monasteries, the oldest of which were built in the 12th century and the most recent ones in the 20th century. Many of these had survived five hundred years of our enslavement by the Turks but could not withstand just one year of international peace. This fact, better than anything else, shows what sort of peace was given to us, to the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. The destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries and the obliteration of Orthodox cemeteries and cultural monuments are only one aspect of a comprehensive Albanian strategy, the objective of which is the transformation of not only the demographic but also the cultural and historical identity of the Kosovo region. At the same time, the most recent Albanian historiography and educational institutions have falsely identified and have ascribed false origins to some of our great holy places, such as Decani, the Patriachate of Pec, Bogorodica Ljeviska and Gracanica. The Roman Catholic circles have played a particularly iniquitous role in this process. In the first place this was done by Albanian Roman Catholic themselves as they proclaimed quite openly that the Serbs had "misappropriated" Albanian Catholic churches. In an interview published by Caritas Vicenza in a book on Kosovo, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Prizren, Marko Sopi, an Albanian by origin, resolutely justifies the destruction of Serbian churches after the war, calling them "political" churches, in spite of the fact that some of these churches were built in the 13trh, 14th and 15th centuries.

The desecration of Serbian Orthodox churches has not ceased. It continues to this day. The most recent case is the damage done to the village church in Gornja Brnjica just outside Pristina on this Christmas Eve. Two recent incidents can also attest to the fact that Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and cemeteries are still the object of the destructive drive of Albanian extremists. During the festivities of May 1 in 2003, Albanians desecrated eleven Serbian graves in the village of Zitina near Vitina. Serbian residents of Zitina had been banished from their homes as early as summer of 1999. Having finished with Zitina, the Albanians turned their destructive fury on to the cemetery in Vitina itself, where they tore out and threw away the cross from the grave of a recently buried Serbian woman. In the evening of May 10, Albanian hooligans hurled rocks at the church of Saint Nicholas in Pristina, breaking all the windows of the church. They also hurled rocks at the house of the local priest, Fr. Miroslav Popadic. These incidents were repeated on many occasions during the past year. All our protests and appeals addressed to the KFOR and UNMIK forces, in which we asked for protection for the priest and the church, were answered by profound silence.

Recently, in addition to overt attacks, mining and wrecking of our churches, monasteries, cemeteries and cultural monuments, the Albanian extremists are now trying to complete the process of ethnic cleansing and misappropriation of our holy places through the work of transitional institutions as UNMIK is transferring its authority to new Kosovan (for Kosovan read Albanian) institutions. So in January 2003 the Kosovan Ministry of Education initiated a proposal to pull down the unfinished Church of Christ the Savior in the center of Pristina. Thanks to our protests and the submission of proper documentation including the permit for the acquisition of the land and the construction of the church, the proposal was quashed. Unfortunately, however, judging by all indications this is only a temporary success.

The monumental proportions of the Church of Christ the Savior has long been a thorn in the side of the Albanians. That is why at the end of 2003 the municipality of Pristina again tried to seize the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Church of Christ the Savior by adopting a resolution depriving the Serbian Orthodox Church of the right to use the area in the center of the town where the Church of Christ the Savior is located. Again we began to defend our legitimate rights sending letters and appeals to everybody, and again UNMIK granted a temporary stay of this illegally adopted resolution. The operative word, however, is "temporary." The resolution has not been annulled. We do not know what will happen in the future.

These new crimes against the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, especially the attacks against Serbian holy places, make it clear to anyone who has eyes to see with that the situation in the Kosovo region has not improved at all, and that the Serbs and their holy places are still objects of open persecution and terrorist activities. And all this is taking place in the presence and under the administration of the United Nations forces. After this brief review of facts it should be clear that the prospects for survival of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, and particularly the prospects for the return of those banished from the region, are very poor. The fact that the region of Kosovo and Metohija is in the state of complete chaos was recently pointed out by the Kosovo ombudsman Marek Anthony Novicky. In his official report on human and civil rights submitted in Pristina he says that as regards the respect for human rights Kosovo is still the "black hole" of Europe and the entire world. Nevertheless, UNMIK continues to ignore the facts on which this statement was founded.

Let us conclude this presentation with information received recently from the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija. According to the Center's report, "in the four and a half years of the UNMIK administration, that is between June 10, 1999 and the end of 2003, in the Kosovo region there were 6392 attacks against the Serbs in which 1197 Serbs were killed, 1305 were wounded and 1138 were kidnapped. Today we know that of those kidnapped 155 were killed, 13 managed to escape, 95 were let go. The fate of the remaining 863 Serbs remains unknown."

All we can do is to pray, to hope, to endure and to remain in our martyred Kosovo and Metohija, together with our holy places, together with the graves of our ancestors and with the conviction that for this problem also God has a solution.


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Bishop Artemije in front of the Russian Orthodox cathedral of St. John in
Washington D.C. February 2004


ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
Our Information Service is distributing news on Kosovo related issues. The main focus of the Info-Service is the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian community in the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. ERP KIM Info Service works in cooperation with www.serbian-translation.com as well as the Kosovo Daily News (KDN) News List

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