with Fr. Sava (Janjic)
by Jelena Tasic
Danas, Belgrade, FR Yugoslavia, January 6 2000
"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.
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
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.
Serbs, Muslims (Gorans and Bosniaks), Roma [Gypsies], Jews, and Croats
have been exposed to persecution and violence, and Turks are in an
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?
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
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?
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
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?
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
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?
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
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?
think that there is a sincere desire to stabilize the situation. Whether
that will be achieved through the reintegration of Kosovo into a future
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?
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
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?
is undeniable that the Army and Police of a democratic country should
defend its territory, but it is well known from history that separatism
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?
support the Tribunal in the Hague because it is supported by the whole
International Community. By refusing to cooperate with the Tribunal
Do you have information about the life in almost ethnically pure Albanian communities, under Hashim Thaqi's rule?
"partisans" have taken the best houses, are carrying out purges
of their political opponents, drive the best cars, and are involved
in mafia jobs.
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?
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