January 05, 2004

ERP KiM Newsletter 05-01-04

When Universities Become Tools in the Battle against Christian churches

While magnificent churches and chapels stand next to the oldest European universities, the Albanian University in Pristina continues its mad campaign with the goal of removing the Church of Christ the Savior, or usurping it for the alleged purposes of the University. If something like this were to occur in Saudi Arabia or some other country under Sharia law, I would not be that surprised. But alas, it is happening in the very heart of Europe, in a land where the Christian faith was sown two thousand years ago, and on the very eve of the Christmas holidays....  (Full text of the letter)


The shell of the unfinished new church of Christ the Savior amidst the barbed wire

A short history: The old Serbian Orthodox church of Christ the Savior was built in the 14th century in the old part of Pristina town. In the 13th and 14th centuries Serbian kings erected other 12 Orthodox churches and monasteries in Pristina where there was also a royal court used by Serbian monarchs. With the arrival of Ottoman occupation the church of Christ the Savior was pulled down (as well as other Christian shrines) and its material was used for building of the Pirinez Mosque (one of major Pristina mosques today). It was only in the 19th century that the Serbs were allowed to build their first church in Pristina after four centuries. That was a little church of St. Nicholas. However with the increase of the Serb population of Pristina the Serbs decided to build a new church after the WW2. The Communist authorities strongly refused to give their permission and even confiscated all church property in the town. It was only after 1989 that the land parcel and the building license of the authorities were finally obtained. The building of the church began in 1993. according to the project of Prof. Spasoje Krunic and Prof. Ljubisa Folic. The golden cross was placed on the top of the dome in 1999, when the building had to be stopped due to the KLA insurrection in the Province and the NATO bombing of Serbia. The church was left unfinished and after three years of constant KFOR protection now remains surrounded only by barbed wire. Kosovo Albanian extremists set fire in the church on July 13, 1999 and the a few weeks later an explosion rocked the building. The barbed wire still encircles the lonely church.

Editorial:

Bishop Artemije issues an open letter to the Serbian people and the international community

ERP KIM Info-Service
January 5, 2003.

In today's edition we are publishing the open letter written by Bishop Artemije, the Serbian Orthodox bishop of Kosovo and Raska regions, in which he strongly condemned the most recent attempt of the Pristina Municipality led by Mr. Ismet Beciri to usurp the legal church property with the cathedral of Christ the Savior in the centre of Pristina. Last year on January 20, 2003, the University of Pristina (in which there are no Serb students and professors) and the Ministry of Education launched a media campaign to remove the Church of Christ the Savior from the city center and it was only after severe protests of the Church that the issue was covered up by silence, however not for a long time.

The latest decision of the Municipal Assembly on December 30, 2003 was again initiated by the same institutions who continue their rabid campaign against the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral claiming that it was illegally built on the alleged University grounds. However, the Church possesses the documentation which proves that the land parcel had never belonged to the University and that the license for building the church in 1991 was quite legally obtained from Pristina municipal authorities of that time.

The Church and the Serbian community rather see the true reasons of this campaign in the attempt of certain Kosovo Albanian nationalist circles close to the University, Albanian Institute and the Ministry of Education to remove the last remaining symbol of Christianity and Serbian culture from the center of almost completely Albanized city, in which beside dozens of mosques only three churches remain at the moment (two Orthodox and one Roman Catholic).

The Orthodox Church authorities cannot but also perceive militant Islamic ideology behind this aggressive policy. The main Bishop's claim is that if Kosovo intends to get closer to Europe its leaders cannot build the society and develop their culture on the ruins of Christian churches and promoting only Islamic Albanian values. Nevertheless, since the end of the separatist conflict in 1999. more than 100 Serbian Orthodox churches have been destroyed or damaged by ethnic Albanian extremists who enjoyed either direct or tacit support of Kosovo's "intelligentsia", particularly the media.

Although the UNMIK authorities suspended the decision of the Pristina Municipal Assembly it is still expected from the UNMIK's chief Harri Holkeri to issue an executive order which will proclaim it null and void. Serbian Orthodox Church quite reasonably remains concerned for the future of its church property and shrines because UNMIK intends to continue transfer of competencies to Kosovo institutions during 2004. These institutions are under majority domination of Kosovo Albanian deputies and Serbs who participate in them do not have effective mechanisms at their disposal to prevent adopting of ethnically discriminating decisions, except to request UNMIK's final intervention, which in legal respect remains temporary.

The Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church is alerted by Bishop Artemije to issue additional public appeals and protests to the leading international organizations and Governments of the "Quint". The Church is also planning to take other legal measures against the serious abuses of the Pristina Municipality, University of Pristina and the Ministry of Education which constantly generate ethnic hatred against Serbs and their culture and thus poison Kosovo Albanian youth in the Province. Such scandalous institutional abuses and repression cannot remain unsanctioned, the Church hierarchs believe.

In any case the campaign against the Church, which reminds us of the communist days, has seriously worsened interethnic relations and represents a serious setback in establishing mutual understanding and confidence between communities. It is also diametrically opposite to the newly proclaimed "Standards for Kosovo", which have already being violated by Kosovo Albanian institutions at all levels.

Fr. Sava Janjic
ERP KiM Info-Service

Bishop of Raska and Prizren Artemije said that "terrorists in Kosovo now attempt through the temporary institutions to complete that which they have not done  in the last three years, in the very presence of the international community". He said that the Serbian Orthodox Church is in possession of valid documentation which proves that the church of Christ the Savior was built legally and that the claims of Kosovo Albanians that it should be removed as an illegal building are not based on legal foundations. 

(January 22, 2003, Belgrade, Media Center)


Title 1

+ARTEMIJE
Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Raska-Prizren
and Kosovo-Metohija

 

Gracanica Monastery, January 4, 2003

The most recent attempt of the Municipal Assembly of Pristina, Pristina University and the Kosovo Ministry of Education to usurp the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church in the very center of Pristina, and on the very eve of the Christmas holidays, is yet another in a series of examples of the open institutional repression being carried out by Albanian dominated institutions in Kosovo and Metohija. This is also a serious warning to the international community of the kind of society Albanian leaders want to build under the administration of the United Nations Mission and before the eyes of the entire democratic world.

It is tragic that in Europe in the 21st century, universities are becoming tools in the battle against the Christian values on which European civilization and culture rests. While magnificent churches and chapels stand next to the oldest European universities, the Albanian University in Pristina continues its mad campaign with the goal of removing the Church of Christ the Savior, or usurping it for the alleged purposes of the University. If something like this were to occur in Saudi Arabia or some other country under Sharia law, I would not be that surprised. But alas, it is happening in the very heart of Europe, in a land where the Christian faith was sown two thousand years ago, and on the very eve of the Christmas holidays. Such blind hatred toward the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is historically the oldest institution in this region, and its holy shrines can only be cause for shame among those Kosovo Albanians who support such institutions, participate in them or merely silently and without protest tolerate their lawlessness.

The day before the session of the Municipal Assembly I wrote a letter to the mayor of Pristina, Mr. Ismet Beqiri, asking him not to support the senseless request of the University and the Ministry of Education requesting that our property on which the Church of Christ the Savior has been built be taken from us. I did not receive a response from him but could read in the newspapers of December 31, 2003 that his Municipal Assembly had taken away one of my churches. This "council of the ungodly" (Psa 1:1), which adopted an already made decision, without any contact with the Serbian Orthodox Church, was convened to destroy yet another Serbian Orthodox holy shrine, in addition to the other 112 that have already been destroyed or damaged by Albanian extremists since June 1999 to today.

It appears that this time only the roles have been changed but not the actors. Instead of explosives they used institutions and the illusion of legality (including the competencies recently transferred to them by UNMIK); instead of armed KLA terrorists and criminal gangs, the initiators and executors this time were none other than their ideological mentors: the mayor of Pristina, the rector of the University and the Kosovo education minister. After more than four years of silence regarding the systematic destruction of our churches, the Kosovo Albanian "intelligentsia" has finally spoken through the mouths of those who are educating its youth and governing its capital, placing their signatures below the ruins of Serbian Orthodox shrines which even survived five centuries under the yoke of the Ottoman sultans but not the four year interval of "international peace".

A second Pristina church, St. Nicholas from the 19th centuries, has for years now been the target of almost daily stonings and attacks. This smallish church, built by the Serbs with difficulty after securing the permission of the sultan to have their own place of worship, is now a thorn in the side of the Kosovo Albanians, not one of whose minarets in Pristina was damaged in the war and none of whom were harmed in any way by our church. All other Serbian monuments and signs in Pristina were destroyed or dragged to the garbage dump a long time ago, including monuments to St. Simeon Nemanja, the great poet Njegos and Vuk Karadzic. What kind of culture and civilization do the architects of present-day Kosovo society intend to build when they do not have even as much tolerance as the Turks and other conquerors who passed through this restless region?

After the recent illegal decision of the Kosovo Assembly to repeal the laws of the Republic of Serbia (which was later revoked by UNMIK authorities) and the forcible prevention of return of Serb returnees to Klina, this latest attack on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church is yet another in a series of unmistakable indicators that provisional institutions of Kosovo and Metohija by their aggressive behavior are not only insufficiently mature for the transfer of competencies but are consciously using the presently existing administration to the detriment of the Serb population in the Province. Continuing the process of transfer of competencies already announced for this year will lead the southern province of Serbia into legal chaos and an even worse rule of terror and ethnic discrimination. Whether the international community will undermine its own mission by such a decision is not difficult to foresee.

These examples of abuses and terror are also new signals of warning to the UNMIK chief that a free and democratic society cannot be built on selective meeting of needs of only one ethnic or religious community to the detriment of other citizens, specifically, the Serb population in the Province. We are told that by participating in institutions we are defending our interests, even though after two years of Serb presence in so-called multiethnic institutions the Serbian people remains equally stripped of its elementary rights and without the possibility of defending its vital interests in the long term. What is more, the Serb presence in such institutions is being used as evidence of their legitimacy before the international community. It is high time that these democratic theatrics be brought to an end. Otherwise, the UN and NATO missions in Kosovo and Metohija will serve to build a society that is diametrically opposed to all democratic and moral values respected in civilized countries of Europe and the world.

All I can say after this unpleasant "Christmas present" I received from the Municipal Assembly of Pristina, the University and the Kosovo Ministry of Education is that we will respond to every new attempt of usurpation or attack on our churches with all available legal means. We will defend our holy shrines with the greatest decisiveness, unshakable faith, prayer and endurance, which have protected us in martyred Kosovo and Metohija over the past six centuries of the Serbian Golgotha. They can destroy our churches, dig up our cemeteries and our villages, re-tailor history but they cannot destroy the faith which since the time of the Holy Prince Lazar to today has preserved the Serbian name and the Christian faith in this region.

In expectation of an urgent reaction by the officials of the Republic of Serbia and Serbia-Montenegro union, as well as other Serbian institutions, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal also to representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and all cultural institutions in Europe and the world to decisively support the protection of the Serbian Orthodox spiritual and cultural heritage in Kosovo and Metohija which is at risk of being completely plundered or destroyed by Albanian extremists and nationalists.

In defending the Church of Christ the Savior, we defend our elementary human right to live in freedom and democracy and, as a people who have lived here for centuries, to preserve our religious, cultural and national identity.

+ARTEMIJE
Bishop of Raska-Prizren
and Kosovo-Metohija
 


Is the capital of Kosovo Province - Pristina - going to remain a city of mosques only?
A view of the old part of Pristina downtown with three Ottoman era mosques


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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