Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Church

January 12, 2001

Statement of the Committee for Kosovo and Metochia

Appointed by the Holy Assembly of Bishops
Of the Serbian Orthodox Church

The Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox
Church, presided over by His Holiness Pavle, Serbian Patriarch, held its
session in the Serbian Patriarchate building on January 11, 2001, the holy
day dedicated to Holy 14,000 Innocents of Bethlehem Slain by Herod,
martyrs for Christ. This Committee viewed events in Kosovo and Metochia
in the past year and a half, paying special attention to the present state
in Kosovo and Metochia, but being aware of the recent democratic
changes in Belgrade, in October 2000.

We know what happened a year and a half ago: NATO troops, KFOR
soldiers (around 45000 of them) and UN (UNMIK) civil administration
members arrived. It was expected that the arrival of such a great force
and international authorities should prevent any kind of evil in Kosovo and
Metochia, and provide peace, freedom, democracy, and equal human
rights for all the inhabitants of Kosovo and Metochia, irrespective of their
religion or nationality. However, the reality has been totally different in
the
past year and a half: new authorities of Kosmet only strove to alleviate
Albanian problems, while the afflictions of the Serbian people as a whole
(which happen only because this people is Serbian, Orthodox one) have
been multiplying. During June and July 1999, at least 200,000 Serbs were
forced to leave Kosovo and Metochia, and with them tens of thousands of
other non-Albanian Kosovo inhabitants. Over one thousand Serbs were
killed, and even more kidnapped about who nothing has been known since.
More than one hundred Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries were
damaged or seriously demolished, and tens of them are of inestimable
spiritual, artistic and cultural value, some of them being several centuries
old. This destruction inflicted enormous loss not only to the Serbian
heritage, but also to the European and world cultural heritage.

Being Christians and conscious people, we have already, in the past,
condemned any form of evil and violence exerted over any people or
individual in crucified areas of Kosovo and Metochia. But, at the same time
we expected and still do expect world public and powerful supporters of
human rights and freedoms to condemn and stop, at the end of the
second and the beginning of the third millennium of the Christian history of
the world, this tyranny of Kosovo Albanians over the Serbs and other
non-Albanian residents of Kosovo and Metochia, over innocent shrines,
graveyards, homes of our afflicted people. Unfortunately, we are
witnessing that nothing important has been done as to the improvement of
existence and of basic human rights of the remaining 120,000 Serbs,
imprisoned in several smaller and bigger enclaves. Neither has anything
been done in connection with the return of all the exiled, refuged and
displaced Serbs, Romanies and other non-Albanian population forced to
leave for different pressures. With deep grief do we conclude that the
situation in Kosovo and Metochia gets worse every day. Some parts of
southern Serbia have also been recently endangered.

Being deeply worried about this situation, the Committee for Kosovo,
appointed by the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox
Church, considered today some concrete issues concerning life and
survival of the Serbian being, spirituality, culture and national identity.

Vital issues were considered at this session of our Church's Committee for
Kosovo, namely, the issues of safety, freedom of movement, jobs of the
Serbs from Kosovo and Metochia and the protection of their religious and
cultural buildings.

Another very important issue is that conditions should be made for a soon
and safe return of all the exiled person from Kosovo and Metochia to their
homes, estates and employments. It was also underlined, in connection
with that issue, that the Albanians exert great pressure on the Serbs to
sell their houses and estates, whereat, it was concluded, UNMIK does
nothing to prevent this process of violence and injustice and to stop it
fully.

Another troublesome information was discussed: the possibility to entrust
the protection of the remaining Serbian shrines - churches and
monasteries - to the Kosovo police, which mostly consists of the ex KLA
soldiers.

However, in spite of these problematic issues, there is a ray of hope that
these problems could be solved fairly owing to democratic changes in
Belgrade and the rest of Serbia. Therefore, the Committee of the Holy
Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and especially Rt.
Rev. Artemije, Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metochia (to whom this
Committee expresses gratitude and support for what he has done and has
been doing as to the protection and salvation of our people and its shrines
in crucified Kosovo and Metochia) appealed to the new authorities in
Serbia and Yugoslavia to constitute as soon as possible a state Committee
for Kosovo and Metochia which would include responsible people, experts
for: state-political, democratic, proprietary, educational, health,
humanitarian, spiritual and cultural issues.

This Committee should advocate the Serbian issue in Kosovo and
Metochia before the world public and international community, thereat
striving for freedom, right and equal life of all the citizens of Kosovo and
Metochia regardless of their religion and nationality. This Committee should
also coordinate attitudes and activities among the democratic authorities
in Belgrade, institutions of the international community in Kosovo and
Metochia, and representatives of the Serbs and Albanians from Kosovo and
Metochia.

The Committee of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox
Church concluded that it is vitally important that the new democratic
authorities in Belgrade should, for the sake of settling of all the mentioned
problematical issues, enable and execute the census of all the Serbs
residing in Kosovo and Metochia up to present moment, as well as of those
who have been exiled from Kosovo and Metochia and are now dispersed
throughout Serbia and Montenegro. That is inevitable element so that the
Serbian people could participate equally in the possible, truly democratic
elections in Kosovo and Metochia and the establishing of democratic
institutions, as envisaged by the Resolution no. 1244 of UN Security
Council, which would provide bigger freedom, peace and better life to all
the residents of Kosovo and Metochia.

In this period of feasts - days of Christmas and Epiphany - at the
beginning of the third millennium of Christianity, we, the Bishops of the
Serbian Orthodox Church of Christ address our ardent prayers to our Lord,
incarnated Saviour of this world and of all the human race, asking Him to
protect and support our people and all those who live in Kosovo and
Metochia, and to grant enlightenment and humanness to international
forces, equally to all the godlike humans and to all God's peoples.

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original text at http://www.spc.rs/Vesti/01/29-1-01_l3.html