THE ORTHODOX BISHOP OF RASKA AND PRIZREN
GRACANICA MONASTERY

 

General Sir Michael Jackson, COMKFOR, Pristina

H.E. Bernard Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary-General
for Kosovo, UNMIK, Pristina

H.E. Sergio Vieira de Mello, UNMIK, Pristina,

UNESCO, Secretary General

 

Dear gentlemen,

Confronted with alarming and serious incidents which occurred in Kosovo and Metohija in the course of the last month, after the deployment of KFOR in the province, we are writing to you again.

We are well aware what had happened in this area before your arrival, during the conflict between the VJ and MUP of Serbia on the one side and the so-called UCK on the other, as well as the two months' period of the NATO bombing campaign against FRY, especially Kosovo and Metohija.

However, our immediate concern of ours at the moment are the crimes against the Serbian population which have occurred in the presence of the international peace forces since the peace agreements have been signed (UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and the Military Agreement between the NATO and VJ in Kumanovo).

According to the Military Agreement the KFOR has allowed safe withdrawal of VJ, MUP and various paramilitary groups but has not managed yet to establish secure surrounding and the peaceful life for all inhabitants of Kosovo and Metohija, which is one of its commitments envisaged by the Agreement.

Now the Albanians are oppressing Serbs and are committing the same crimes against Serbs and other non-Albanian communities which were committed against the Kosovo Albanians in the time of Milosevic's regime. But these recent crimes occur in the time of peace and with the presence of KFOR, very often just in front of their eyes!

Undoubtedly, in the war time the acts of kidnapping, rape, murder and massacre of the innocent people, burning of their homes and their religious sites (just because they belong to the people of other religion) are horrendous crimes. But in our opinion it is much greater a crime to commit and allow similar criminal acts after the peace has been established. That is exactly what the Serbian population is suffering at the moment.

After the withdrawal of the VJ from the Albanian border and the arrival of the KFOR troops, hordes of UCK gunmen, various armed and criminal gangs marched without any control from Albania into Kosovo. In only two weeks' time almost all Serbs were forced to leave from Suva Reka, Prizren, Djakovica, Decani, Pec, Djurakovac, Klina, Istok (Metohija region), Urosevac, Vucitrn, Srbica and thus caused the swiftest and a complete ethnic cleansing from that part of the province. More than 80.000 Serbs had to leave their homes.

At the same time, beside the exodus of the Orthodox Serbian people and numerous crimes and atrocities (forceful expulsions from flats and houses, robberies, rapes, kidnappings, murders, massacres of innocent people) there is a process of a systematic eradication of the Serbian spiritual heritage. So far there have been several serious attacks on our churches and monasteries. The churches are being looted, burned, demolished and vandalized. It is important to mention the attacks on the following shrines:

1. The Holy Trinity Monastery near Musutiste (nr. Suva Reka), 14th century, looted and burned and finally demolished by explosive,
2. The Dormition of Mother of God parish church in Musutiste, (Suva Reka) f. 1315, burned and later completely demolished by explosive,
3. St. Mark's Monastery in Korisa (nr. Prizren) 1467, set on fire and vandalized, and destroyed by explosive,
4. St. Archangel Gabriel's Monastery in Binac (nr. Vitina), f. 14th century, set on fire and almost completely demolished,
5. The Presentation of the Virgin church in Dolac (nr. Klina), f. 1620, vandalized and set on fire,
6. The Presentation of the Virgin parish church in Bijelo Polje (nr. Pec), f. 16th century (reconstructed in 19th century).
7. St. John the Baptist parish church in Pecka Banja (nr. Pec), built in 1996, vandalized and set on fire,
8. St. Virgin's church in Naklo village, (nr. Pec), built in 1985, vandalized and set on fire,
9. The Holy Trinity church in Velika Reka village (nr. Vucitrn), built in 1997, vandalized and set on fire.
10. The Holy Trinity church in Petric, built in 1993, vandalized and later completely demolished by explosive,
11. The Holy Apostles' parish church in Petrovce village (nr. Kosovska Kamenica), vandalized and set on fire.
12. St. Nicolas church in Slovinje village (nr. Lipljan), built in 16th century, set on fire and later completely demolished by explosive,
13. St. Uros parish church in Urosevac, built in 1933, vandalized and set on fire,
14. St. Virgin's church in Podgorce village (nr. Vitina), vandalized and set on fire,
15. The famous Devic Monastery of St. Joanikije, f. c.1440, looted and vandalized, the marble tomb of the saint is desecrated.
16. SS Apostles Peter and Paul parish church in Suva Reka, built in 1938, vandalized and finally destroyed by explosive,
17. St. Virgin's parish church in Djurakovac (nr. Pec), built in 1997, vandalized,
18. St. Elija's parish church in Vucitrn, built in 1834, vandalized,
19. Decani Monastery, 14th century is endangered from robber bands.

Beside all aforementioned churches and monasteries in almost all cases the monastery buildings "konaks" and parish homes were also looted or set on fire.

It has also come to our knowledge that some churches in Gnjilane area have also been vandalized and set on fire but we have not managed so far to confirm these information because we do not have the freedom of movement.

Gentlemen, only during the first month of "the peace" in Kosovo we have experienced such disastrous consequences. Therefore, we are extremely worried whether after all what has happened (and what might happen in future) any of the expelled Serbs would dare to go back to their homes and their shrines.

Inhuman acts of looting, burning of homes are revolting indeed but even more revolting are destructions of the old religious and cultural monuments - churches, monasteries, mosques, teqies, because these are the houses of God and his people and belong to the world's cultural heritage and the Civilization. Just imagine what darkness, inhumanity, anti-culture and barbarism stand behind these destructions of the religious and national monuments in Kosovo at the threshold of the greatest Christian Jubilee - the 2.000 anniversary of Christianity amidst the civilized Europe.

We sincerely believe that you would be able to secure peace and stability in the province with the help of KFOR, the international police and the civil administration. We only wonder whether any of the Kosovo Serbs would live to see that day until all decisive and necessary steps are taken immediately to prevent and stop further crimes and violence against the remaining Serb population. It is in your capacity to establish peace and order. Once again we express our most urgent request to you to do all you can in order to fulfill the commitment which you have undertaken in front of the UN and the entire world.

In this way you would be able to persuade the remaining Serbs to stay at their homes and encourage our refugees to return. Only in this context we would be able to work and cooperate with you on establishing of the civil and democratic society in Kosovo based on multiethnic, multicultural and multiconfessional principles.

Gracanica Monastery
July 15, 1999

Sincerely Yours

+ARTEMIJE

Bishop of Raska and Prizren