REPORT OF KESTON NEWS SERVICE
KOSOVO: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTACKS ON CHURCHES?
Issue 7, Articles 30-31, 28 July 2000
Friday 28 July 2000
by Branko Bjelajac and Felix Corley, Keston News Service
In mid-July another Serbian Orthodox church in Kosovo was reduced to rubble, the latest in what appears to be a systematic campaign to destroy all Serbian Orthodox religious sites in the disputed province which the Orthodox blame on `Albanian extremists'. With more than 100 buildings either destroyed or badly damaged in the year since the Kosovo Stabilisation Force (KFOR) and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) took over the administration of the province under the United Nations mandate, Serbian Orthodox representatives have told Keston News Service that the international administration is not doing enough to protect their places of worship. The chairman of the Kosovo Helsinki Committee told Keston from Pristina that it had not yet been proved that Albanians were behind the attacks and called on KFOR and UNMIK to do more to investigate them and to prevent further such attacks. However, an UNMIK spokeswoman rejected Albanian suggestions that such destructions might be the work of agents of Belgrade and backed upSerbian Orthodox claims that Albanians were to blame.
The ruins of St. Eliah's church in Pomazatin after the final destruction on July 16th
The Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Pomazatin, on the left bank of the river Drenica, 12 kilometres west of Pristina, was dynamited in a powerful explosion late on 16 July. The church - built in 1937 and partially destroyed by the Balli units (Albanian fascists) in 1941 - was rebuilt in 1965 and served as a parish church until several years ago, when it became partially inactive. On 3 August 1999, after the deployment of substantial British KFOR units in the vicinity of the church, attackers used a hand grenade to destroy the entrance, just one day after the liturgy was held in the church to commemorate St Elijah's Day. `Despite this damage the church could be easily repaired and the Diocese requested KFOR to secure the church from further destruction,' the Diocese of Raska and Prizren declared in a statement. `KFOR only surrounded the church with barbed wire and from time to time patrols would pass by.'
The former parish priest of Pomazatin, RADIVOJE PANIC, visited the ruined church in the wake of the attack. `He called us and reported that the Albanian extremists used 30 kilograms of explosive to completely destroy it. There is only a pile of stones left. A very sad picture, very said,' SRDJAN JABLANOVIC, head of the Raska and Prizren diocesan office in Belgrade told Keston. `I used to go to visit this church when I lived in Kosovo to report on the damage carried out by Albanian extremists in the early 1990s - broken roof, damaged door, damaged candlesticks, etc. I believe that KFOR is now trying to make some sort of excuse by saying that the church building was not in use.' Jablanovic pointed out that there is a `great concentration' of KFOR soldiers in the area, since the church is close to Slatina airport and a major coal mine, and lies right next to the Pristina to Pec railway. `If this church could not be protected, do any have a better chance? The [KFOR] barracks are only a hundred meters away.'
The Pomazatin church was the third in six weeks to be dynamited after earlier damage by burning or looting. On 29 June attackers used dynamite to destroy St Paraskeva church in Podgorce village, in the municipality of Kosovska Vitina. This church - which had been built in the 1990s and consecrated in 1996 - had been seriously damaged in August last year, but this time was completely destroyed. After theSerbs left the village in June 1999, the church was not in use. The first attack last year was perpetrated after looting of its movable treasure and desecration of the altar and the whole building, and then it was set on fire. The Serbian National Council issued a strong protest to KFOR and to the UNMIK authorities. Representatives went to Camp Bondsteel, the US military base in Kosovo, and protested to the US general in command. On 1 July KFOR spokesman Captain RUSSELL BERG announced that two people had been detained in connection with this blast.
At the end of May the Church of St Nicholas in Srbinje village near Gracanica Monastery was attacked for the third time in ten months and finally destroyed in a dynamite explosion. Finnish Colonel ARTO RATY told the press: `If a church has value as a historical place then clearly it should be guarded, but if it has no historical value and there is no chance of the Serbs returning anytime soon in the area, then it should be gently dismantled.' But Hieromonk SAVA of the Decani Monastery commented to Reuters on this occasion: `Probably 95 per cent of Kosovo cultural heritage sites are Orthodox buildings. These need saving not just for the Serbs, but for all Europeans.'
In the early hours of 22 June, at least six mortar grenades landed in the vicinity of the Decani monastery church (see separate KNS article).
Keston has sought the views of KFOR, UNMIK, the Kosovo Helsinki Committee as well as Serbian Orthodox representatives in Kosovo (see article below). (END)
Friday 28 July 2000
The Serbian Orthodox Church leaders in Kosovo and the chairman of the Kosovo Helsinki Committee agree that KFOR and UNMIK need to investigate the recent attacks on churches in Kosovo, but seem to disagree over who may be responsible for the desecration and destruction. UNMIK told Keston that though it had not been proven, they believed the local population was to blame.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has condemned the latest attacks on the churches of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Pomazatin, of St Paraskeva in Podgorce and of St Nicholas in Srbinje (see separate KNS article 28 July 2000) and has requested an investigation from KFOR and UNMIK. `There are very few reasons to believe that the perpetrators would ever be arrested because so far not a single attacker on nearly 90 destroyed Serbian churches has been identified or arrested,' the diocesan statement concludes.
Despite Serbian Orthodox allegations that the rash of church destructions are the work of `Albanian extremists', GAZMEND PULA, the chairman of the Kosovo Helsinki Committee (a member of the Vienna-based International Helsinki Federation), told Keston by telephone from Pristina on 27 July that there was so far no proof of the identity of those responsible for the attacks. `It is not clarified that it is the Albanians who are blowing up churches,' Pula declared. `I can imagine given the genocide that took place by the Serbian regime during the war that there would be some revenge actions from Albanians who suffered. Or it might be agents of the Belgrade regime staging these attacks to prove that the Serbs are not being protected by the international forces.' Pula insists that these attacks must be investigated by the `legitimate authorities'. `These are for the time being KFOR and the UNMIK police who have been legally mandated by the United Nations.' He believes that despite their `major efforts to normalise the situation and bring law and order', KFOR and UNMIK are not doing enough to improve the general security situation and, in particular, to protect Serbian Orthodox churches. `Their role should be more energetic and vigorous.'
SUSAN MANWELL, the acting spokeswoman for UNMIK, admitted that it is not proven who has been leading the campaign of destruction. But asked who UNMIK believed was to blame she declared: `the local population'. Asked if she meant the Albanians, she responded categorically: `Definitely.' She told Keston from Pristina on 27 July that the suggestion that agents of the Belgrade regime were behind the dynamitings was a `theory promoted by Kosovar Albanians', but one UNMIK had not found substantiated. `We have never caught any agents of Belgrade,' she told Keston, referring not just to the church attacks but to general attacks. `I am not saying such agents are not here, but they are not who we think are destroying churches.' Manwell stressed that UNMIK police are investigating these incidents `when they can' and pointed out the extent of KFOR's deployment to protect such churches. `Tanks are posted outside churches and whole companies are assigned there,' she told Keston. `You see them every time you drive past a church.' Both churches that are still functioning and those no longer in use are being protected, she stressed. Manwell confirmed that UNMIK accepted the figures for destroyed churches given by Hieromonk Sava. `We regard him as a credible source,' she declared. `He is the moral conscience.'
The Serbian Orthodox Church has long been concerned at the attacks on its churches in Kosovo, regarding them as part of a wider campaign to expel the remaining Serbs from the province. In May the Church published a book `Crucified Kosovo' with a list of 80 churches, monasteries and other religious sites destroyed between June and October 1999. In his address to the United Nations Security Council in New York on 9 June, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska and Prizren demanded `an end to the politics of blatant ethnic discrimination which leads to legalisation of ethnic cleansing, lawlessness, and to new conflicts in the Balkans,' pointing out that the international community `has taken upon itself the obligation to protect the citizens of Kosovo'. Among his seven demands was the protection of Serbian Orthodox holy sites and the establishment of `religious and cultural equality' in Kosovo.
In addition to the attacks on its churches, the Serbian Orthodox are concerned about attacks on burial processions and the desecration of Serbian graveyards. Also causing anger were attempts by British KFOR soldiers to conduct a body search on the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch PAVLE, on 27 June when he and his entourage were stopped at the Merdare checkpoint. The patriarch was en route for the commemoration at Kosovo Polje of the 1389 battle in which the Serbs were defeated by the Turks, during which he was to serve the liturgy. When another bishop intervened to try to prevent the patriarch being searched, he was reportedly subjected to swearing by a British soldier. The patriarch was not searched in the end. (END)
Institute, 4 Park Town, Oxford,
PUBLICATION ON POST WAR DESTRUCTION OF SERB ORTHODOX
CHURCHES AND MONASTERIES IN KOSOVO
Serbian Church Blown Up in Kosovo
Yugoslavia -- An explosion ripped through a medieval Serbian
church of the Holy Prophet Elijah was located in the village of
"It was destroyed to the basement," he said.
66 pounds of explosives were used in the 11:30 p.m. blast, peacekeepers
church was not under guard by NATO-led peacekeepers, U.N. police said.
the private Beta and FoNet news agencies in Belgrade said in their
opposition Serbian Renewal Movement blamed the latest explosion on the
of KFOR know well enough that Albanian extremists systematically
Serbs have faced daily attacks over the past year and Serb Orthodox
said Pomazetin was an ethnically mixed village before Kosovo's 1998-99