January 21, 2004
ERP KIM Newsletter 21-01-04b
Belfry of Church of Holy Archangel Michael in Stimlje set on fire
Arson attack, not a "children's game"
After the recent desecration of the church in Gornja Brnjica in Pristina, Albanians set fire to belfry of Church of the Holy Archangel Michael near Stimlje
of the church of Holy Archangel Michael set on fire by ethnic Albanians
UNMIK police report adds more oil to the fire..
(commentary by Fr. Sava Janjic)
Unprecedented arrogance of Finnish KFOR -
Communique of the Diocese
This newsletter is available on our ERP
of the church of Holy Archangel Michael set on fire by ethnic Albanians
ERP KIM Info
(desecrated Orthodox Christian icons in Holy Archangel Michael church in Stimlje. An archive photo from "Kosovo Crucified". The church was desecrated by Muslim Albanian extremists in summer 1999)
The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija most strongly condemns the setting of a fire in the belfry of the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Archangel Michael in Stimlje. After the recent desecration of the church in the village of Gornja Brnjica near Pristina, this represents yet another instance of attack on Orthodox holy shrines in the area of central Kosovo and Metohija. As in the previous instance, this attack also occurred in the area of responsibility of Finnish KFOR, which in both cases failed to protect the targeted churches.
According to an UNMIK police report dated January 20, 2004, on Sunday, January 18 at approximately 17,25 hours a fire was set in the belfry of the church which was quickly localized by the firefighting team. The report goes on to state that on the basis of initial findings it is believed that the fire "was caused by children and not thought to be a direct attack against the church or its community".
Today ERP KIM Info Service correspondent G.N. and Fr. Randjel Denic, the parish priest for Lipljan and Stimlje, attempted to verify the UNMIK police report regarding the fire that broke out in the belfry of the Serbian Orthodox church in Stimlje. They first contacted Finnish KFOR, whose area of responsibility includes Stimlje, and requested additional information regarding the incident. Local representatives at the Finnish base in Lipljan did not demonstrated the slightest willingness to help them or provide photos of the damage in KFOR's possession. They even refused to provide them with a military escort so they could visit the church because they claimed the existence of full freedom of movement. The Finnish chaplain, who was separately addressed by Fr. Randjel, also refused to help.
Finally the ERP KIM reporter and Fr. Randjel set out unescorted and at their own risk to determine the damage that had been done to the belfry. The fire damaged a significant part of the wooden construction and roof of the belfry. The priest did not have time to enter the church itself because a group of Albanians, obviously hostile as a result of the arrival of the Serbian priest and a reporter, had already gathered around the church. The church and belfry are encircled by barbed wire and Fr. Randjel stated categorically that it is completely impossible for "children" to easily access the belfry because the barbed wire had to be cut by pliers.
"It would appear that this was an act of arson and the next target may easily be the church itself, which is without direct KFOR protection," Fr. Randjel told the ERP KIM Info Service, adding: "The UNMIK police report, which states that the fire was set by "children", sounds all too familiar to Kosovo Serbs, who have heard the same justification for many previous attacks against cemeteries and churches. For example, two years ago, according to an official KFOR report, 'small children' removed and carried off the entire copper roof of the Church of St. Lazar in Piskoti near Djakovica and dug up the Orthodox cemetery there." "In Stimlje today there are only 17 elderly Serbs remaining who almost do not go out of their homes and it is completely certain that a fire will be set by local Albanians," said Fr. Randjel.
After visiting the church Fr. Randjel and our correspondent visited the local UNMIK administrator Masanba Seck of Nigeria who received them in the building of the Stimlje municipal assembly where the flag of the Republic of Albania was prominently displayed. Although the building also includes an UNMIK office, no UN Mission markings were displayed although Kosovo Province is under UN administration and not a part of Albania. The UNMIK administrator said that he could not give any statement regarding the case and that an investigation of the incident by UNMIK and the Kosovo police is in the progress.
When our reporter asked why neither UNMIK nor KFOR informed church representatives of the incident, which they had found out about almost by chance from a very brief UNMIK police report posted on the World Wide Web, neither the UNMIK representative nor the KFOR commander had any comment.
The local spokesman of the Finnish battalion Jani Manakaneki said in a brief statement for the ERP KIM Info Service that the wooden belfry of the Orthodox church in Stimlje had been set on fire at approximately 17,25 hours on January 18. The Finnish battalion removed its fixed control checkpoint in front of the church on October 2003 because the situation is purportedly "stable" and there is full freedom of movement in the region of Stimlje municipality. KFOR patrols pass through Stimlje twice daily, said Manakenaki, adding that the entire case is under the jurisdiction of local Kosovo and UNMIK police, who are conducting an investigation.
The Church of the Holy Archangel Michael was build on a hill above Stimlje in 1920-22 on the foundation of an older church which existed here in the Middle Ages. The church was also build as a memorial shrine to the fallen Serbian soldiers of World War I. It was build according to the design of one of the first Serbian woman architects, Jelisaveta Nacic, with funding from the Kneginja Ljubica Fund. Several of the icons in the church are the work of painter Uros Predic. An orphanage for girls was originally built next to the church. In 1977 the church was restored.
August 1999 Albanian extremists from Stimlje broke into the unprotected
church and desecrated it, damaging a large number of icons. A fire was
set inside the church at that time which damaged most of its internal
We are enclosing the report of the UNMIK police regarding this incident:
Commentary by Fr. Sava Janjic
ERP KIM Info Service
five years of constant ignoring of systematic destruction of the Serb
religious and cultural heritage, which was either ascribed to some
unknown attackers or even Serbs themselves, UNMIK police now finds
another way of avoiding their own responsibility. intentionally
publishing a shameless lie that the fire in the belfry of the Stimlje
It appears that Mr. Chappell and UNMIK police officials still live in their own dreams and not in Kosovo's reality. But the the truth is different. UNMIK police has now thrown all its masks off and is openly siding with Kosovo Albanian extremists in fear of their own lives and careers. It would be no wonder that Mr. Chappell said that the fire broke because of intensive heat in January.
go back to Stimlje and see some facts:
2. In order to
climb the locked belfry the children had to break the lock which perhaps
could be a part of the children game. I really do not believe that Mr.
Chappell ever played in that way anytime in his life, but OK again,
Kosovo "games" are unique in the world. Instead of playing with toys
Kosovo Albanian children burn churches, dig graves and rob houses. Quite
an interesting phenomenon for sociologists, indeed.
In any case this ironic and totally unfounded qualification by the UNMIK police is seen and felt by the Serbian Orthodox Church as an open act of solidarity with the arsonists and criminals. Who knows, perhaps the next revelation from the UNMIK police HQ would be that the Serbian Holy sites are being destroyed by aliens and UFO's. No.... Sava you are going to far, because NATO would probably be blamed for this failure then. The "children" are the most innocent solution, particularly in the winter season when they like to play with fire.
Finnish KFOR refused any assistance to the Serbian Orthodox priest and a reporter who wanted to visit Stimlje
The behavior of the Finnish battalion is not only shameful for all of KFOR but is resulting in worsening relations between the Serb population and military forces who by their passivity and irresponsibility are openly placing themselves on the side of the Albanian extremists, forcing the Serbs to increasingly view them as occupying forces
ERP KIM Info
The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija expresses it horror and protest due to the unprofessional and irresponsible attitude of members of Finnish KFOR in Central Kosovo. Unfortunately, instead of performing their jobs and protecting threatened holy shrines in their area of responsibility, just days after an attack on the church in the village of Gornja Brnjica we have yet another attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church. Instead of informing representatives of the Diocese in a timely manner and at least assisting the parish priest in visiting the scene of the attack, Finnish KFOR representatives behaved very provocatively and arrogantly toward representatives of the Diocese, who requested but were not granted a military escort to visit the church and assess the extent of the damage.
By transferring all responsibility on UNMIK and the Kosovo police, Finnish KFOR is behaving in exactly the same manner as only days ago when its members calmly and coldly observed the beating of Serb men and women from Novo Naselje by Kosovo Albanian hooligans, refusing even to provide emergency medical care to the injured man. This inhuman behavior by individual members of the Finnish battalion who were in contact with the representatives of the Diocese today, including even their chaplain who refused to provide any assistance whatsoever, is not only shameful for all of KFOR but is resulting in worsening relations between the Serb population and military forces who by their passivity and irresponsibility are openly placing themselves on the side of the Albanian extremists, forcing the Serbs to increasingly view them as occupying forces and not as peacekeepers.
Unfortunately, while the former secretary of the NATO alliance Lord Robertson is being (secretly though) awarded the highest honor of the Serbia-Montenegro Army, at the same time in Kosovo and Metohija NATO is allowing Albanian nationalists to freely continue with the ethnic cleansing of the Serbian people and the destruction of its holy shrines by its passivity in the battle against Albanian extremism and ethnic violence. We ask to what extent representatives of the Serbia-Montenegro Army and Ministry of Defense, who chose to generously bestow this honor upon the same man who coolly stated that Serbs "were impaling Albanian babies with their bayonettes" (see interview in NIN, Belgrade weekly) are in fact representing the interests of the people who elected them to their posts and to what extent they are acting out of their personal and political interests.
In response to a recent letter by Bishop Artemije to KFOR commander in chief general Holger Kammerhoff regarding the attempt to usurp the Church of Christ the Savior in which the Bishop requested reinforced protection for this church, the general in a rather official way replied that the Bishop should address the appropriate municipal institutions, advising him to urge greater Serb participation in the work of institutions - the same institutions which passed the decision to usurp the church property in the first place by outvoting the Serb deputies, which are terrorizing the remaining Serbs in the Province under the guise of law. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to understand whether this attitude is the result of a complete lack of experience and unfamiliarity with the real situation or an arrogant irony being used to permit the unobstructed continuation of Albanian institutional repression against the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija.
The Diocese is especially embittered by the fact that no one bothered to inform it regarding attacks on the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church and that it is forced to learn of such events through the highly filtered and impersonal reports of the UNMIK police. Even when they aware of an attack on a church, SOC representatives are unable to safely travel to the scene of the attack due to the lack of freedom of movement and security. Taking into account the degree of corruption among the majority of UNMIK personnel, many of whom are also on the pay lists of the Albanian mafia, it would hardly have been surprising if the whole church had been blow apart - only to be somehow justified by someone or even more simply ignored, in keeping with the folk adage - Three days of any wonder are more than enough.
Service of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija
Bishop Artemije's interview for "Svedok"
After everything our people in the southern Serb province have gone through in the past four years, including cooperation with the international community which offered us many programs and promises, we have gained little or nothing. I openly told Holkeri that under the circumstances in which the Serbs are living, we cannot participate any further in their programs and concepts. Four years of experience has forced us to reject cooperation to our own detriment and our own destruction.
January 20, 2004
by Branka Mitric and Neda Marinovic
(Text boxes are reproduced as they appear in the print version of Svedok. Appropriate replacements for photographs from "Svedok" have been substituted from the ERP KIM Info Service archive.)
I met with UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri last week for the first time, even though he has been in that office for more than five months. Through our forthright discussion, we both presented our assessments of the situation in the southern Serbian province from the Serb and UNMIK perspectives, respectively. I wanted to emphasize the real situation of the Serb people and church in Kosovo and Metohija. Holkeri wanted to gain political points and goals through this meeting and so attempted to convince us to influence the Serbs to join the task groups for preparing programs for the implementation of the Standards for Kosovo, Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren commented in an interview for "Svedok", adding: "After everything our people in the southern Serb province have gone through in the past four years, including cooperation with the international community which offered us many programs and promises, we have gained little or nothing. I openly told Holkeri that under the circumstances in which the Serbs are living, we cannot participate any further in their programs and concepts. Four years of experience has forced us to reject cooperation to our own detriment and our own destruction. At the end of the meeting, we agreed to hold more similar meetings in the future because we have many topics for discussion. Only through dialogue can we resolve at least some of the problems and improve the general situation.
Svedok: What is Harri Holkeri dissatisfied with, concretely?
(Transferred numerous competencies - Harri Holkeri)
Artemije: The UNMIK chief is dissatisfied with the fact that Serbs are refusing to participate in task groups whose purpose is to prepare documents and the implementation of standards. Serbs, on the other hand, are dissatisfied with the existing standards and the process leading to them. All the promises remain just words on paper, including decentralization, returns and safety of Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija.
Svedok: You frequently stress that UN Security Council Resolution 1244 is not being consistently applied on the ground.
Artemije: That's correct. I have also emphasized that the resolution of existing problems in Kosovo and Metohija can only be solved within the framework of Resolution 1244, because only Resolution 1244 can ensure a multiethnic, multireligious and multicultural society. I have emphasized many times that Kosovo can be given a broad autonomy but exclusively within the state union of Serbia and Montenegro.
Svedok: The Kosovo parliament is preparing its first steps on realizing the plan for an independent Kosovo. To what extent are you aware of this?
Artemije: They have been doing so since they came into existence. For the past two years the Kosovo parliament has been enacting all its laws and decisions on the basis of competencies which the UNMIK chief has been transferring to provisional institutions. All the Serb persecutions, murders, committed crimes and destruction of churches supposedly lead to a single goal - the creation of an independent Kosovo. I emphasized this problem to Holkeri. This is the first, basic step and the second would be the creation of a Greater Albania. The UNMIK chief told me that this is not his mandate in Kosovo but to ensure the implementation of standards and enable the implementation of Resolution 1244.
Svedok: What is holding up the humanitarian aid being sent from Serbia to Kosovo and Metohija?
Artemije: Aid is arriving but with great difficulties and complication by the customs officials, the majority of whom are Albanians. They are in these positions because this service was transferred from UNMIK to provisional institutions. The Albanians are simply abusing their position by opposing international standards; hence, duties are being levied on humanitarian aid. UNMIK chief Holkeri has promised that he will help in ensuring that humanitarian aid is freed from unnecessary duties.
Svedok: Harri Holkeri has complained several times that the work of UNMIK investigators has been jeopardized. He said that the attack on Russian humanitarians in Decani was not spontaneous.
Artemije: By his statement Holkeri admitted that the attack was organized, which is the truth, even though his administrators and UNMIK police deny that any incident occurred. However, Harri Holkeri attempted to diminish the incident by saying that the bus was targeted with snowballs. It certainly could not have been snowballs but stones because the windows on the bus were shattered. But Holkeri admitted there was an incident and that it was organized. It's true he also compared the incident with the attack on World Bank officials and Rexhepi in Northern Mitrovica. He gave approximately equal weight to the two incidents.
Svedok: Is there ongoing cooperation with KFOR and are you satisfied with it?
Artemije: Cooperation and protection has existed and continues to exist but it is not adequate. How can we be satisfied if 115 Serbian churches and monasteries have been destroyed under KFOR protection, frequently right next to their checkpoints? We cannot be satisfied when not one of the perpetrators of these crimes in Kosovo and Metohija has been found. When we emphasized this, Holkeri responded that the most difficult obstacle was the wall of silence, i.e., the Albanian population that is hiding those perpetrators out of solidarity or fear.
Svedok: To what extent does the fact that the Serbian Government has not yet been constituted influence the situation in Kosovo?
Artemije: It certainly does influence it. The Albanians are well aware of the vacuum in Belgrade. Currently they are taking advantage of the situation to implement as many decisions as they can passed by the Kosovo parliament. What has already passed through parliamentary procedure is much more difficult to annul or correct. The Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija certainly are not benefiting from the fact that the government is not yet formed. Even prior to the elections, when the old government headed by premier Zivkovic began to shake and crumble, it could not do much to resolve problems in Kosovo and Metohija. The situation today is even more difficult in that we do not have our newly elected government.
Svedok: Does this mean that the problematic situation on the Serbian political scene is "helping" to achieve the idea of an independent Kosovo?
Artemije: I don't think that it is intentionally the case but the Albanians are taking advantage of the absence of a government in Belgrade.
Svedok: Do you advocate a multiethnic Kosovo where Serbs, Albanians, Roma would all live together? Taking into account all the crimes that have been committed in the southern Serbian province, is this still possible?
Artemije: If it was possible yesterday, why would it not
be possible again tomorrow. The only thing that is necessary is goodwill
on all sides. Otherwise, something undesirable will result. In any case,
Kosovo cannot belong to only one people. It must belong equally to
everyone who has lived in this region for centuries
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