NEWSLETTER No 28

Bishop Artemije meets with UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri
in Gracanica Monastery


Bishop Artemije gave Mr. Holkeri a copy of the book "Crucified Kosovo", explaining that not one of the monasteries and churches mentioned in the book has been restored. On the contrary, new instances of church desecrations continue to occur, like recently in Donja Brnjica on the eve of Christmas: "What the extremists have not blown up with explosives, local institutions are attempting to finish off in a different manner, like the recent attempt to usurp the Church of Christ the Savior and the property on which it is built in Pristina," said the Bishop. He added that such examples of institutional abuse represent a threat to Serb rights and security.

Full report at: Newsletter 17 January, 2004

Uneasiness in Velika Hoca - German KFOR removed the checkpoint for the sake of "further normalization of the situation"

Serbs who work in the municipality still travel only with escort and the only two Serb members of KPS are not allowed to wear guns like their Albanian colleagues - Great concern for protection of valuable cultural heritage in Velika Hoca.

When KFOR representatives give briefings on the security situation in the Orahovac municipality they present it as stable and positive, which is used as a main argument for continuation of reduction of troops. But when Serbs, on the basis of this "security improvement" request a step forward in respect of their human rights, freedom of movement and return of refugees and monks to the neighboring village of Zociste, KFOR representatives are quite reserved and cannot give their guarantees. According to their security assessment the local Albanian population is still hostile towards Serbs and they say that they cannot  provide safe return of refugees and monks to Zociste.


Bells ring for alert
Bells on the church of St. Stephen (14th century), one of 11 Orthodox
 churches in  Velika Hoca village
Full report from Velika Hoca on:
Newsletter 17 January, 2004 (Second Edition)

Diocese of Raska and Prizren concerned
If, God forbid, Serbs are attacked by Albanian extremists after this latest KFOR decision I am afraid, KFOR and UNMIK will bear direct responsibility.

ERP KiM Info-service
Gracanica, 16 January 2003

Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren is also seriously concerned after the latest decision of the German KFOR to remove the checkpoint at the entrance to Velika Hoca village. "For years we have been requesting the return of Serbs to the neighboring villages and the reconstruction of the 14th century Zociste Monastery, but they constantly keep saying that it is still not right time for this", says Bishop Artemije, adding that it is incomprehensible that on one side local Serbs are left virtually unprotected and on the others Kosovo Albanian nationalists are allowed to pursue their policy of discrimination and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and Metohija, usually under the cover of so called democratic Kosovo institutions.

"Kosovo Serbs simply do not feel secure because almost not a single one case of post-war murder or kidnapping has been positively resolved, not to mention finding perpetrators for destruction and damaging of more than 100 Orthodox Christian churches in Kosovo and Metohija". According to Bishop Artemije the policy of KFOR troop reduction and so called "unfixing" (removal of fixed checkpoints) is intended to force Serbs to rely more on local Albanian dominated institutions in which many former UCK/KLA members sit and continue with policy of ethnic discrimination. "This is one more pressure on Serbs which opens serious risks for future incidents", Bishop said with concern.

"If, God forbid, Serbs are attacked by Albanian extremists after this latest KFOR decision I am afraid, KFOR and UNMIK will bear direct responsibility. The massacre of Serb children in Gorazdevac and the murder of the Stolic family were largely a consequence of the KFOR reduction for the sake of 'normalization of the situation', said the Bishop in his exclusive statement to the ERP KIM Info-Service.

Today I discussed about these issues with Mr. Holkeri and I hope that our objections will make them revise some of their positions, Bishop said.

FULL REPORT by ERP KIM Info-Service:

Newsletter 12 January, 2004 - Second Edition

One Serb wounded by gunfire, six others beaten - KFOR reportedly observes beating of Serbs without responding - Bishop Artemije issues sharpest protest

January 11, 2004

The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija expresses its sharpest protest following attacks on Serbs from Novo Naselje near Lipljan. "We have had enough of hypocritical statements of 'deep concern' and 'regret'. KFOR and the UNMIK police are not tasked and paid to weep over the fate of the Serbs but to protect them from systematic Albanian terror and violence," says Bishop Artemije


Serbs wonded and beaten by Kosovo Albanian mob
at Simonida Hospital in Gracanica, January 11, 2004

Newsletter 10 January, 2004

Obstruction of Serb returns still continues

Bishop Artemije: "Refugee return is not up to the good will of the Albanian populations, among whom are the same people who expelled the Serbs who are now seeking to return. It is a fundamental human right for which there cannot and must not be any preconditions. This ignoble behavior on the part Klina municipal officials and the refusal of top Kosovo leader to respond to the appeal of Peggy Hicks, best demonstrate that their letter to Serb refugees of last summer is nothing more than meaningless rhetoric.


Organized obstruction of Serb returns to Klina continues - Rugova's claim refuted by events on the ground

Bishop Artemije: Return is not up to the good will of the Albanians but a fundamental human right. Bishop Artemije also criticized Rugova's claim that "Kosovo has already met most standards": "Such claims only inflict moral shame on Albanian leaders whose irresponsible claims are refuted daily by events on the ground."


A large pole with a flag of Republic of Albania still stands
despite Holkeri's disapproval ( a bus with Russian humanitarians was attacked on this
location on January 7th, 2004, the Orthodox Christian Christmas day

Stones or Snowballs ..... No, actually, stones in snowballs

ErP KIM Info-Service
Gracanica, January 9, 2003

The stoning of an UNMIK police escorted bus with Russian aid workers and Senator Scheblygin was in many ways a contradictory event, at least in reactions of the UN Mission and UNMIK police. For those who were in the bus and had to change a vehicle on which a large window glass was smashed into pieces this was an immediate experience of intolerance and vandalism of a number of Kosovo Albanian citizens in Decani town. The Albanians were waiting for the arrival of the bus with Russian pilgrims and showered it with stones in the main square "decorated" by a flag of Republic of Albania, one of the largest of a kind in Kosovo Province.

Anyway, no one in UNMIK was sure that the incident occurred for at least 24 hours although the square was supposedly secured by "strong security forces of different police units and KFOR". While BETA news agency (Belgrade) already in the evening reported that Mr. Holkeri condemned the incident, UNMIK police report claimed next morning that nothing occurred. Very soon unofficial information came that it was not 30, or 300 Albanians but only 3 Albanians who were throwing snowballs. Since the Russians luckily made the video footage of the incident and confirmed that it was stones after all and not so a small group of Albanians, UNMIK police chief Mr. Stefan Feller found a "Solomon solution" - the bus was attacked by stones within snowballs.

In any case this sad incident in which no one was hurt and for which no Albanian leaders (either municipal or Kosovo political leaders) made any apologize was one more proof to the Russian journalists that Kosovo Province is still ruled by ethnic discrimination and religious intolerance.

The next day Mr. Rugova, the local "prophet" said that Kosovo has already fulfilled the most of the human rights standards and appealed on the international community to recognize Kosovo's independence. As usual the person who is officially referred as Kosovo's president continues living in his dreams without any contact neither with his own people nor with any other community in Kosovo. Well, dear friends, here we go again in 2004...

Newsletter 8 January, 2004

Kosovo: No peace for Orthodox Christmas (Forum 18, Oslo)

The Orthodox Christmas season this month has been marred in Kosovo by a series of violent incidents, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. A church was broken into and several items and some money were stolen, and a bus was attacked by local Albanians at the Decani monastery after the Christmas service. The attack on the church follows an earlier attack in November 2003. Officials of the United Nations administration (UNMIK) have condemned the attacks, the latest in a series since 1999 for which no arrests have ever been made. Speaking to Forum 18 about the attack on the bus, Fr Sava Janjic of the Decani monastery described it as a "demonstration of utmost religious intolerance" on Christmas "a holiday of peace and forgiveness". "What a paradox, that the attack was made at a moment when the head of UNMIK, only a hundred metres away, was speaking with the local Decani assembly president and appealed to him to show tolerance and understanding towards Decani monastery."


Chief of UNMIK Harri Holkeri at Patriarchate of Pec Monastery, Jan 7, 2004

Albanians Stone Russian Delegation in Decani

As President of the Society and extinguished artist Ivana Zigon told the Tanjug agency, some 300 or 400 Albanians participated in this incident. Prior to that, the delegation of the Russian-Serbian Friendship Society had visited, on the occasion of Christmas, the biggest Christian holiday, certain Serbian Orthodox Church Monasteries in Metohija. The incident was strongly condemned by political representatives of Kosmet Serbs.

Radio Serbia-Montenegro
Belgrade, January 07, 2004

Decani, 07 Jan (Radio S-M) - A group of Albanians has stoned a delegation of Russian-Serbian Friendship Society that was visiting Kosmet, near Decani, close to Pec. Luckily, None of the guests, among them was a member of Russian Federation Council, senator Serguey Shebljigin, were hurt.

As President of the Society and extinguished artist Ivana Zigon told the Tanjug agency, some 300 or 400 Albanians participated in this incident. Prior to that, the delegation of the Russian-Serbian Friendship Society had visited, on the occasion of Christmas, the biggest Christian holiday, certain Serbian Orthodox Church Monasteries in Metohija. The incident was strongly condemned by political representatives of Kosmet Serbs.


Christ is born - Indeed He is born!
Hristos se rodi - Vaistinu se rodi!

Newsletter 7 January, 2004 - Second Edition

Bishop Artemije's Christmas message to the faithful in Kosovo and Metohija

"A day of peace - The birth of Christ!" How unrealistic it sounds in today's world when there are wars and killing in every corner of the planet, when horrible explosions each day in global metropolises take their toll of innocent victims, when peoples kill each other without mercy, when brothers work to crush each other.."

KIM Radio, Gracanica-Caglavica
January 6, 2003

"A day of peace - The birth of Christ!" How unrealistic it sounds in today's world when there are wars and killing in every corner of the planet, when horrible explosions each day in global metropolises take their toll of innocent victims, when peoples kill each other without mercy, when brothers work to crush each other...

"We, the Orthodox Serbs still living and surviving in Kosovo and Metohija, and our brothers who five years ago were forced to leave their centuries-old homes, properties, holy shrines, the graves of their dearest ones are especially aware of this feeling of the absence of peace," said Bishop Artemije (Radosavljevic) of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija in his Christmas message to the faithful in Kosovo and Metohija. At the same time, the Bishop reminded that "Christ by his birth began to distribute the water of life and calls us to salvation toward which we should advance withfaith, hope and love."

HARRI HOLKERI AT DECANI AND PEC PATRIARCHATE MONASTERIES FOR CHRISTMAS

Harri Holkeri - the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Kosovo took part in Orthodox Christmas festivities at Decani Monastery, January 7, 2004
more photos


Mr. Holkeri during the Christmas Liturgy in the Decani Monastery church
(January 7, 2004, morning)


Chief of UNMIK Harri Holkeri visited Pec Patriarchate after the Christmas
litugy and lunch at Decani Monastery to express his best Christmas wishes
to his Holiness Patriarch Pavle of Serbia, January 7, 2004 (afternoon)

Bishop Artemije Appeals to Holkeri to stop harassment of Serbs and the Church
"Such forms of harassment and abuse of the Serbian people, in this instance, of the Serbian Orthodox Church, are just one in a series of clear indicators that provisional institutions in Kosovo on the basis of their behavior are not only too immature for transfer of competencies but are consciously taking advantage of the existing administration to drive the southern Serbian province into further legal chaos and an even worse rule of terror and ethnic discrimination," wrote Bishop Artemije in an letter to UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri protesting the prevention of the arrival of a shipment of humanitarian assistance in the form of heating oil to the Serbian Orthodox Church from the Serbian oil company Jugopetrol

Newsletter 7 January, 2004

Bishop Artemije, Serbia wasted its opportunities in XX century

exclusive Christmas interview of Bishop Artemije to the "Danas" daily, Belgrade

Even though Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija have already lived for four and a half years since the introduction of an international protectorate "without safety, freedom of movement, the right to work, exposed to attacks, robbery and murder", Bishop Artemije says that they "await the holiday of the Nativity of Christ with joy".


Thousands of holy icons and books perished in Serbian Orthodox churches
desecrated by ethnic Albanian extremists in Kosovo since June 1999 (photo: ERPKiM)

Newsletter 6 January, 2004 - Second Edition

The latest "Christmas gift"
Orthodox church near Pristina desecrated

"The spectacle I found was horrible," the Pristina parish priest told the ERP KIM Info Service. "The vandals had scattered the holy chalice, the Holy Scriptures, the candle holders and icons on the floor of the church. After a detailed examination, I discovered that two silver candle holders were missing from the holy altar table, one icon lamp and all the money from sold candles and donations," said Fr. Miroslav.

Insider opinion

Kosovo Standards and Not-so-hidden Aid Agenda, by Henry Braesal
From almost the first moment that UNMIK moved into Kosovo in June 1999, a process of "Kosovarisation" was set in place. One example was the sending home of non-Albanian employees of the electricity company KEK in June 1999 by KFOR with the promise that they could reapply for their jobs within three weeks. To date none has been reinstated. In addition, almost all non-Albanian, and in particular Serb staff, have been ejected from the hospitals, public services and from Pristina University, schools and colleges.

Newsletter 6 January, 2004

Bishop Artemije: I would not like to see a repeat of 2003

We believe that what is impossible for men is not impossible for God. If both sides are wise, a solution will be found so we can all continue living in Kosovo and Metohija together and side by side, as we have done for centuries. However, an attempt and desire by either side to force the other out of Kosovo will end in failure, said Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija in an interview for Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty.

Bishop Artemije Addressed chiefs of diplomatic missions and KFOR authorities in Kosovo
The attempt of the present Municipal authorities (supported by the University and the Ministry of Education) to abrogate the decisions of the previous (Serbian) authorities and the existing laws is not only illegal, but also leads to unnecessary interethnic confrontation. The rabid campaign against Church blurs the image of the University and the Ministry of education because such patterns of behavior existed during the former communist regime or can be found today only in the countries ruled by Sharia law

Newsletter 5 January, 2004 (full text with Bishop's letter)

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


War against the church like in Communist days
Silhouette of the Christ Savior Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in the downtown Pristina skyline. The church stubbornly remains one of few surviving traces of the Serbian presence in the provincial capital and is targeted again by Kosovo Albanian institutions who intend to demolish it or to turn into a secular building. The still unfinished Cathedral has remained a living symbol of resistance to the rule of ethno-religious discrimination and terror of Kosovo Albanian nationalists directed against the Serbian Orthodox Church and its people in Kosovo.

Newsletter 3 January, 2004

War against the Church continues in Christmas season!

Attempted usurpation of the Church property in Pristina on the initiative of the University and Ministry of Education

Serbian Orthodox Church strongly condemned the decision by the Municipal Assembly of Pristina dated December 30, 2003 to abolish its legitimate property rights over the land parcel in the center of the city on which the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior is built. The illegal decision of the Municipal Assembly of Pristina was brought on the innitiative of the Pristina University and the Ministry of Education which hold the banner of anti-Christian campaign in Kosovo by promotion of falsified history and anti-Serbian sentiments among Albanian youth. The Church welcomed the decisive response of UNMIK authorities who immediately suspended the municipal decision and expects the UNMIK chief to abrogate the suspended decision by his executive order. The Serbian Orthodox Church plans to lodge official complaints to the international organizations for human and religious rights and the Governments of the leading countries contributing to the Kosovo peace mission.

Attempted usurpation of the Church property in Pristina
This latest "Christmas present" from the provisional Kosovo institutions, which seriously violates the basic religious and land ownership rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church, provoked a very sharp response on the part of Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren who, prior to yesterday's session of the municipal assembly, sent protest letters to the president of the Municipal Assembly of Pristina, Mr. Ismet Beqiri, and the head of UNMIK, Mr. Harri Holkeri. Bishop Artemije asked UNMIK for an urgent response to the aforementioned initiative of the Municipal Assembly of Pristina and to put a stop to the institutional terror that is being carried out in a completely shameless and callous manner to the detriment of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian people in the Province.

Coordinating Center requests protection for Serbian Orthodox property
The Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija requested that UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri block the initiative of the Municipality of Pristina to take away the land parcel which is the location of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Christ the Savior.

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