January 20, 2003
UNCERTAIN FATE OF ST. ELIJAH CHURCH IN PODUJEVO
Withdrawal of KFOR security announced - UNMIK insists on evacuation of movable property from the church - Diocese protests
The Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija received notification from an UNMIK representatives that a KFOR security stationed in front of the Church of St. Elijah (Sv. Ilija) in Podujevo will soon be withdrawn. In accordance with the new situation UNMIK proposes that the Diocese evacuate its movable inventory from the church due to the possibility of someone breaking into the abandoned church and making further damage. Bishop Artemije most strongly rejected this proposal and repeated his demand to KFOR and UNMIK that it is absolutely unacceptable for Serbian Orthodox churches in areas where Serbs are presently not living to be left without military protection. "By discontinuing checkpoints near our churches and monasteries, extremists are being openly called upon to destroy them as they have already done with 112 of our churches," said Bishop Artemije in a statement for the Info Service of the ERP KIM.
The Church of St. Elijah was built in 1930 and is located on a tree-covered hilltop above the city of Podujevo, not far from the Orthodox cemetery. The church was destroyed in 1941 by Kosovo Albanian Nazi formation "Balli Combetar" and restored through tremendous effort by the Serbs in 1971. After the armed conflict of 1999 and the expulsion of the Serb population from Podujevo, the Church of St. Elijah was left alone and Albanian extremists during the summer of 1999 fire to it which partially damaged the iconostasis and church inventory. Nevertheless the building itself has remained intact to the present day because KFOR immediately established a security patrol and thus prevented the planned destruction of the church with explosives. After British KFOR soldiers from the Czech contingent took over the protection of this church last year. However, according to the new KFOR policy to gradually remove checkpoints near Serbian churches and monuments, it was decided that this church is to be left without military protection.
In the municipality of Podujevo immediately prior to the conflict in 1999 there were only 1,500 Serbs because the majority of the Serb population moved out during the period of the so-called Albanian autonomy from 1974 to 1989. After the withdrawal of Serbian forces only about 20 Serb souls in the border village of Sekirica were left in the municipality. Within the city itself two elderly Serb women remained for a time but after a series of threats and attacks despite constant KFOR protection they were forced to leave their homes. In a lawless situation such as this where the Serbs in the municipality lack the most basic conditions for a free life, discontinuing military protection for the Serb Church of St. Elijah the Prophet is tantamount to a death sentence. When KFOR finally abandons this church it is entirely possible to expect its destruction, as has already been done under similar conditions in other places throughout Kosovo and Metohija.
The best evidence that UNMIK is aware of this risk is the request to the Diocese to evacuate its movable church inventory. The completely justified question which poses itself is why the security checkpoint is being removed when the UN Mission is aware of this danger.
ERP KIM Info Service
ALBANIAN EXTREMISTS THROW TWO HAND GRENADES AT SERB HOUSE NEAR OBILIC
Two grenades thrown this morning by Albanian extremists at the house of Slavisa Vukadinovic caused material damage and brought unrest to the remaining Serbs in Obilic
In the early morning hours at approximately 01,00 Albanian extremists threw two hand grenades at the house of Slavisa Vukadinovic in the village of Janjine Vode, five kilometers west of Obilic. At the moment of attack there were seven family members in the Vukadinovic house including four minors. Even though no one was hurt the attack caused material damage.
This latest attack in the village of Janjine Vode is one of a series of armed attacks whose goal is the expulsion of the remaining Serbs from the villages west of Obilic. The Serb population in this region is visibly disturbed by this attack and the fact that no one can protect them any longer from the terror of Albanian extremists.
The Diocese of Raska
and Prizren most strongly condemns this terrorist attack and appeals
to UNMIK officials and to KFOR to find the perpetrators and bring them
The seven were arrested in September 2001 after NATO peacekeepers and international police monitors in U.N.-run Kosovo seized hundreds of automatic weapons.
The Supreme Court of the Muslim-Croat federation sentenced former General Hamid Bahto to one year in prison for ordering that the weapons be hidden during inspections by the NATO-led Bosnia peace force, but dropped smuggling charges against him, Onasa news agency reported.
The others were found guilty of smuggling arms and sentenced to prison terms ranging from one year and two months to three years and four months, it said.
Service of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren