Interview with Fr. Sava (Janjic)

We Are Going to Suffer Even Worse Without Absolute Repentance

by Jelena Tasic

Danas, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, January 6 2000
Danas web site:

Fr. Sava in his office
Hiermonk Sava Janjic

"Let us pray to the newly born God-child Christ to shine light into the heart of all people; to give them wisdom to recognize the difference between good and evil; to warm our hearts with love to recognize in every human our brother in God for whom the Savior also died on the cross. Also, let us pray that we enter the new year and the new millennium with hope that dark monsters of our today may finally become past in the next year and that Serbia and Montenegro may be rejuvenated and reborn, and find their way to the twenty first century together with all other European nations". This is the Christmas message of [protosindjel] Sava (Janjic), a monk from the monastery of Visoki Decani who in an interview for Danas talks about the situation in the southern Serbian province.

DANAS: We are in the last year of the second millennium. How do you explain that while the Christian world is celebrating 2000 years since the
birth of Christ, a Christian nation, Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, are persecuted and its sacred sites are being destroyed. Who has a misunderstanding" with God? Serbs, the world, or all of them together?

FR. SAVA: Europe is entering the new millennium with violence which is still perpetrated against Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija. President Milosevic's regime bears the most responsibility for such a situation. Its irresponsible policy and violence has brought war to Kosovo. Then, Albanian extremists who want to achieve through violence an ethnically pure Albanian state, but also the International Community, which has approached this problem with one-sided use of force and has not succeeded to stop the post-war wave of violence. All three sides used force as a response to a political problem and by their actions, more or less, are making the situation in the field worse. Kosovo is today a territory with total ethnic iscrimination. Serbs have been herded into ghettos and deprived of basic freedoms. Albanians want to create an ethnically pure state, and past actions of Mr. Milosevic are giving them a perfect cover for that.

Besides Serbs, Muslims (Gorans and Bosniaks), Roma [Gypsies], Jews, and Croats have been exposed to persecution and violence, and Turks are in an
increasingly difficult situation. KFOR and UNMiK want to stabilize the situation, but not at the cost of a clash with Albanians. I think that we shall not see a significant improvement of this difficult situation until the right political solution for the Kosovo problem is found.

Abbess of the Monastery Devic Anastasija asked a year ago whether sacred sites may be sold of given up. Does the Serb people understand the meaning of sacred sites? Have Serbs contributed through their attitude towards their sacred sites to the current situation in Kosovo and Metohija?

Kosovo has in a way been sold and given up. I believe that the regime in Belgrade realized that it has ruined the Serb cause in Kosovo and consciously lost it in the manner that allowed it to portray the defeat as a victory. Bishop Artemije spoke last year about the creation of a fake Kosovo myth and that Milosevic would deliberately loose Kosovo in a great battle and declare that for his victory. It is the fact that there was no Holy Prince nor moral victory in that battle. The political and military loss of Kosovo is the greatest shame for our state and military. Milosevic's regime left behind burnt remains of
houses, mass graves, ransacked homes and helpless poor Serbs who now pay for his misdeeds and crimes of his generals.

Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija have organized themselves and formed the Serb National Council, and its Executive Council. A declaration has been adopted in Sofia about their further political activities. What will be your further steps?

We intend to work with UNMiK on the establishment of local self-rule for the Serb people in its enclaves. We want local Serb police, administration and
judiciary. We shall also work on the establishment of conditions for the return of expelled persons to their homes and allocation of financial assistance for the economic development for those regions where Serbs live.

How do you see future contacts of the Serb side with representatives of the International Community and, especially with Albanians, after the signing of the agreement regarding the establishment of the transitional administrative council of Kosovo?

The signing of the agreement has been criticized by the Serb National Council, above all because of the manner in which the agreement had been reached, without any consultations with the Serb side. My personal belief is that Serbs must responsibly participate in the temporary authorities organized by UNMiK, but that such a participation must be based on total equality and openness and honesty of both sides. We do not want to serve as a decoration for non-existent multiethnicity, but want to be a responsible factor for the solution of the problem. Unfortunately, we are not in the position to choose
interlocutors on the Albanian side nor can we stick our head in the sand and pretend that we live on a different planet. We are where we are and in this,
extremely unfavorable, situation we have to find a way to improve the living conditions for our people in Kosovo.

Bernard Kouchner frequently mentions you as an example for other Serb representatives. What are your impressions of him and what do you think about demands for his replacement?

I personally do not support demands for his replacement, because that is not the way to solve problems. Mr. Kouchner does not create policy in Kosovo on
his own and I personally believe that he is rather tired of our Balkan problems.

Is it possible to talk about double standards of the International Community after everything that has taken place in Kosovo since the NATO bombardment of FRY until today?

The bombardment of Serbia was a great tragedy and a crime, but we have to keep in mind that it was provoked by the behavior of the regime in Belgrade. A confrontation with the whole world with the goal of prolonging a dictatorship has been for years the style of Milosevic's rule. He is aware that the bombardment has extended his political life. When his power gets endangered again he will provoke another clash and provoke NATO to again bomb our country. The existence of double standards obvious but is directly caused by the behavior of the official Belgrade.

You have participated in almost all the meetings with representatives of UNMiK and KFOR as well as with foreign diplomats who visit Kosovo and Metohija. To what extent is their support for the multiethnic character of the province and protection of the non-Albanian population sincere, and are there differences between European and American representatives?

I think that there is a sincere desire to stabilize the situation. Whether that will be achieved through the reintegration of Kosovo into a future democratic
Serbia and FRY, creation of independent Kosovo, or extension of the protectorate depends on several factors, above all on the situation in Serbia. The current official policy is that international borders cannot be changed, but that policy is liable to be changed if Milosevic is not replaces soon. Europe and America differ in their approach, but not in their final goal. The rule of capital and financial powers does not recognize political and geographical borders anymore. The American capital is in both in America and Europe. The goal of America is not to destabilize countries where their capital is active. Of course, they want to pacify the Balkans and I at the moment have the impression that the Americans are impatient to see quick results.

While the Europeans insist on multiethnicity, an increasing number of American officials believes that ethnic borders should be established in the Balkans and that then those statelets should be thrown together in the Balkan pot and prepared for the united Europe.

One of the key demands of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija is that the final status of the province not be resolved while Milosevic is in power. How do you see the future status of the province and to what extent does the Serbian opposition represent the interests of the Serbs from Kosovo and Metohija?

It is impossible to reach any solution for Kosovo while Milosevic is in power. He only cares about Kosovo to the extent he can use it to manipulate the public. I am convinced that arsonists cannot put down fires and that the regime which failed to find a peaceful solution for Kosovo cannot contribute to the peace process. The future status of the province depends on many factors: behavior of the future democratic forces in Serbia and FRY, situation in Montenegro as well as relations on the Albanian political scene. The idea of sovereignty has passed through rapid changes recently. Europe is slowly turning into a community of regions, rather than states with firm borders, currencies and armies. For now the most important thing is to keep Serbs in Kosovo and to bring the expelled population back to its homes. The Serb National Council still firmly beeves that Kosovo and Metohija should remain a part of a democratic Serbia.

Would you care to comment increasingly frequent statements of the top military and police officials about the return of Yugoslav forces to Kosovo and Metohija in order to protect the Serb community?

These are only empty stories, which are supposed to fool the people. As long as Milosevic is in power there will be no return of the Police and Army to Kosovo. That is a clear policy of everyone in the International Community, and even Belgrade is aware of the risk involved. Moscow has a tacit agreement with the West regarding Chechnya and will not get involved
in the Kosovo problem. Beijing needs American credits and will not veto an extension of the KFOR mandate. The SNV supports the idea that one day the Army and Police return to Kosovo, as a part of Serbia and FRY. But these would be the Police and Army of a democratic state, controlled by the people and the parliament, rather than under the control of the Milosevic family. Those who shamed the honor of the Serb soldier and Serb people will not be allowed by God to defend the holy Serb land.

Judging from the reactions that could be heard and seen at the Meeting of the Serbs expelled from Kosovo, it seems that many of them are not prepared to accept the truth about the regime and its role in the Kosovo tragedy. Why is that so?

Our people is still being manipulated on all levels. In Kosovo one can still find Serbs who are convinced that they are victors and are waiting for General Pavkovic to return on a white tank. That fact indicates the extent of the spiritual erosion of the Serb being and the degree to which the regime manipulates the people.

The Serb Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija has condemned the crimes against Albanians. What actually happened in Kosovo and what is the truth about mass graves?

It is undeniable that the Army and Police of a democratic country should defend its territory, but it is well known from history that separatism cannot be
extinguished by force. Instead of developing autonomous democratic institutions and economy, and pursuing fuller integration into Europe, besides
security measures, Milosevic and Seselj tried to resolve the Kosovo problem by fire and sword. With the intention of terrifying Albanians and dissuading them from a rebellion, Serbian forces engaged in brutal crimes against civilian population. Of course, the Western media have immensely exaggerated violence in Kosovo in order to justify the NATO intervention, but it is the fact that crimes were committed and that there are mass graves. The most recent OSCE report documents many of those crimes. I saw with my own eyes the expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Pec, columns of desperate people, houses set on fire. I talked to many individuals.

We helped some of the victims in the Decani monastery as much as we could, but we were powerless to prevent that evil. Everything that was done in Kosovo is a huge shame and disgrace for the Serb people, which still cannot find strength to get rid of the regime. I believe that those responsible for these crimes should face justice regardless of their ethnicity. It is sad that those who committed crimes and bloodied their hands are today being decorated and are shamelessly talking about some victory.

The Serb side in Kosovo is demanding that all those who have committed crimes be tried. Should the Serbs who committed crimes be tried by their own people or by the Tribunal in the Hague?

We support the Tribunal in the Hague because it is supported by the whole International Community. By refusing to cooperate with the Tribunal we are
preventing that the evidence about crimes against Serbs reach the Tribunal and are indirectly delaying a condemnation of the crimes against Serbs in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Milosevic and his men want to transform their personal guilt to the collective guilt of the Serb people. We must not allow that. If someone believes to be innocent, he should prove that in court. I personally believe that the cooperation with the Hague Tribunal is a condition for the return to the International Community.

Do you have information about the life in almost ethnically pure Albanian communities, under Hashim Thaqi's rule?

Thaqi's "partisans" have taken the best houses, are carrying out purges of their political opponents, drive the best cars, and are involved in mafia jobs.
Overnight and without a single year of schooling they have become "generals". They persecute all Serbs and all non-Albanians. The number of Albanians dissatisfied with such liberators is increasing. A lot of them are aware that Thaqi's people cannot take them to Europe and bring prosperity. However, the young generation has been very radicalized and in its euphoria still supports the extremists. As a whole, Kosovo Albanians are showing that they are not prepared for their own state and for democracy and the world is increasingly becoming aware of that. The number of those who are speaking out against violence is increasing but I am afraid that most of them are doing that only because ethnic violence is taking them away from the dream of an independent Kosovo.

Some of Albanian intellectuals, themselves shocked with the extent of hatred towards Serbs, claim that that is a result of the repression to which Albanians were exposed during the last 10 years. Although that cannot be denied, can the roots of hatred be found in the way of upbringing of young Albanians?

The young generation of Albanians in Kosovo has grown up in the atmosphere of repression and discrimination and that has reflected on their upbringing. However, before the war Serbs could freely walk city streets and our priests were not harassed. I think that the key point happened when the "cleansing" of Kosovo started in March. The extent of brutality and violence simply fanned the flames of hatred that had been simmering in the hearts of many young people.

To what extent have mutual prejudices of Serbs and Albanians from Kosovo formed a fertile ground for everything that has happened?

Prejudices on both sides are very strong and are a consequence of the lack of communication between the two communities. Both sides are living more or less in the mentality fitting for the nineteenth century and see in each other enemies. It is sad that young people do not see at the start of the twenty first century where Europe is heading and that they show very little desire to get beyond hatred. All of us must understand that our happiness cannot be built on somebody else's misery.

Since the beginning of clashes in Kosovo and Metohija, you have been pointing out the crucial role of religious communities in seeking the solution of the problem. Have religious communities had the same attitude with respect to everything that has happened in the province during the last two years? To what extent can the religious meeting in Amman and conclusions adopted there about the role of the Church in the civil society truly contribute to better cooperation of different religions?

I believe that religious communities can help create a better climate for understanding between ethnic communities. Of course that would not be any kind of religious nor ecumenical cooperation. Simply, all of us would make an effort to influence our faithful to respect the integrity and freedom of every individual and every ethnic group. In that sense the meeting in Amman is significant and can contribute to better common life. However, it is necessary not to exaggerate influence of religious communities. Wars in Yugoslavia were not religious wars. They were led by atheists who misused religion and national tradition in order to present themselves as authentic representatives of the people.

Are journalists, especially foreign journalists, correct when they differentiate between the attitude of the Raska-Prizren bishopric and the Serb Orthodox Church as a whole?

The Raska-Prizren bishopric is one of the bishoprics in the Serb Orthodox Church. The fact that we treat come matters with more openness does not mean that in other parts of our church there are not people who agree with us.

Is there enough strength in the Serb people for a spiritual rebirth? Do Serbs need a public repentance for all crimes committed by the regime on their behalf?

I think that exactly the Church should be the main force for the internal rebirth of the Serb people. Of course, as a whole, the Church is not responsible for the past events, although individuals within the Church bear responsibility for giving support to the regime and "national" leaders during crucial times, probably believing that those leaders were fighting for true national interests. A moral and spiritual catharsis is necessary for our people and should be initiated by our Church. The Church should ask for forgiveness on behalf of all of us. Forgiveness, because we allowed that wolves in sheep clothing drag our people with them. If someone should and had to tell the truth, the most responsible individuals from the Church should have done that. Some did so, but those from whom the most was expected kept quiet and their silence was way too loud. Some of them even openly supported ideas that are contrary to the spirit of the Holy Scriptures.

However, many see in the Serb Orthodox Church the only possible initiator of the spiritual renewal and thereby salvation of the Serb people. Is the Serb Orthodox Church prepared for that task?

Our Church has a unique chance to lead the people on the path of awakening. It is obvious that we haven't drunk our glass of bile to the bottom and we shall
without doubt suffer even more, if there is no total repentance. The Serb Orthodox Church could play in our nation the key role in the change of the regime and the value system, similarly to the Catholic Church in Poland during Communism and more recently in Croatia and Slovenia. The Serb people needs courageous witnesses of the truth and justice, who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for those goals. This is not a political matter, but the question of the survival of our Church and our people.

 Actions of his Holiness and "Omnipotent" Bishop of
Backa are Shocking for our People

Does the Serb Orthodox Church still stand behind the last summer's demand for Milosevic's resignation and formation of the National Salvation Government? During the last few months the impression is that the SPC has significantly moderated its attitude towards the regime.

The Serb Orthodox Church is not united in its political views and it is impossible to talk about the views of the Church rather then the views of certain bishops. The Holy Council of Bishops has on its session held in September expressed support for demands for the replacement of Milosevic and formation of the National Salvation Government. However, a group of bishops is "undermining" these demands and confusing the people by its actions and statements. So far on several occasions the Holy Council has adopted decisions about distancing of the Church from the regime. Unfortunately, after every such decision some
bishops go to visit Milosevic and annul the significance of these decisions.

Bishop Artemije is the first Church dignitary to confirm that the Church is not united in its attitude with respect to Milosevic. You took a step further and publicly demanded from Patriarch Pavle and bishop of Backa Irinej (Bulovic) to "apologize to the Serb people for their support for Milosevic". Who in the SPC is "for" and who "against" Milosevic?

I am trying not to believe that a bishop and an orthodox Christian can consciously support Milosevic's policy. I would rather say that the problem is in a confusion and lack of thinking. I cannot understand how the Patriarch can demand Milosevic's resignation
and than go to congratulate him the day when a destructive ideology of violence won over. Actions of his Holiness and especially his "omnipotent" advisor, who is regularly taking his Holiness to meet Milosevic, are shocking for our people. Unfortunately, in the last few years some bishops have not recognized the time in which we live and allowed a godless regime
to use the Church for its political goals and to stay in power. History will judge everyone accordingly. I do not dare to contemplate responsibility before God of those who allowed that wolves mislead the flock of Christ.

 Cyber Monk

Protosindjel Sava Janjic was born in 1965. He is a secretary of bishop Artemije and is known in public under his nickname "cybermonk". He should be credited for the adoption of the Internet by the Church. Fr. Sava was born in Dubrovnik, and grew up in Trebinje. He studied English language. He went to the Crna Reka monastery in 1989, at the time when the abbot of the monastery was the present bishop of Raska-Prizren, Artemije. He started to work with computers in 1994 in the Decani Monastery.