The Speech of Bishop Artemy
Before European Parliaments


ARTEMY, Bishop of Raska and Prizren
LONDON, BRUXELLES AND BONN, from 5th to 20th of April 1997.

 

Bishop ArtemyHonorable ladies and gentlemen, members of the Parliament,

I am addressing you in this public place in front of the eyes of the whole world as a Bishop of the Orthodox Church, the oldest institution in the World which has for 2000 years professed Truth, protected Truth and born martyrdom for Truth. This fact obligates me today to speak only Truth in respect to the question you are momentarily interested in - the question of Kosovo and Metohija, which awaits its righteous solution.

By the grace of God I am Bishop of Raska and Prizren Orthodox Diocese which comprises the whole region of Kosovo and Metohija as well as some areas of Old Raska (Serbia). This Diocese is mentioned for the first time in written documents in 1019. It has existed for almost 1000 years. Hence, I am speaking here not only in my own name or in the name of my present parishioners but also in the name of all my predecessors who lived for centuries in the region of Kosovo and Metohija. There they have left indelible traces of a spiritual, cultural and historical character especially from the time when these areas of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire became a part of the Serbian state, during the reign of Stefan Nemanja in 1189 and his son Stefan the First-crowned in 1214.

From then on, Kosovo and Metohija became a centre and a cradle of Serbian statehood, spirituality and culture as an inalienable part of the Serbian state until today. The fate of Serbia is the fate of Kosovo. Even after the famous Battle of Kosovo in 1389, Kosovo and Serbia remained together under the Turkish occupation.

The only period in its thousand year history when Kosovo was separated from Serbia and included in so called Greater Albania was the time between 1941 and 1944 which was a consequence of the Italian occupation during the war.

Beside the historical sources, the Serbian character of Kosovo and Metohija is confirmed even more convincingly by numerous toponyms. It is scientifically accepted that toponyms bear witness of the historical presence of one people in certain area and preserve the names of settlements, certain structures, historical events etc. In the region of Kosovo and Metohija there is not a
single toponym the source of which could be traced to the Albanian language.

Besides, the region of Kosovo and Metohija is literary packed with churches and monasteries built by the Serbian Orthodox people and their medieval rulers, kings and emperors, beginning with the holy Nemanjic dynasty, the Lazarevic family and many others until the present day. In the area of Kosovo and Metohija historians and archeologists have registered more than 1300 churches and monasteries, the foundations of our forfathers. Among them are preserved our greatest and most famous shrines known to the whole cultured world such as: Patriarchate of Pec, Bogorodica Ljeviska in Prizren, Gracanica near Pristina, Visoki Decani, Holy Archangels near Prizren and numerous others less famous churches, known and unknown.

Many of them were later, during the Turkish occupation, converted into mosques, or desecrated and ruined. Many of them disappeared from the face of the earth. Some of them are only preserved in ruins while others were completely razed to the ground. The Studenica of Hvostan which was almost equal in beauty to famous Nemanjic Studenica Monastery is no more.
The Holy Archangels Monastery that was not far behind Visoki Decani Monastery in its grandeur and beauty was totally destroyed. The foundation of king Milutin in Banjska was also deserted. After the Second World War, in 1948 the old refectory of Decani monastery was burned to the ground with many valuables in it. In 1981, during a single night, almost all residental quarters of Pec Patriarchy were burned to ashes and in 1992 the famous treasury of Decani Monastery had to be evacuated outside of Kosovo for the first time in its history together with many other church valuables from other churches and monasteries.

It is not difficult to understand the hatred of various enemies against the Serbian Orthodox people and its holy shrines. Our old churches and foundations are indelible stamps on our deed of ownership to this part of the Serbian land. That was known to their founders and also to their enemies who were destroying them.

The Serbian people of Kosovo and Metohija have seen many difficult days in their history. We shared the fate of our shrines, our churches and our monasteries. When they were destroyed and desecrated by our enemies and invaders, at the same time the Serbian people was slaughtered, persecuted, enslaved and exterminated by all means. But our people always returned to their shrines, burned villages and raised them again from the ruins.

The martyrdom of our people in this region during the last 50 years exceeds in its consequences all that previously happened in its history. During the Second World War many Orthodox fled persecution by Albanian fascists, called ballists. And then, after the war, the new communist government headed by J. Broz (Tito) forbade their return to their burned homes. This criminal law has not been recalled even to this day. Simultaneously according to the intention and logic characteristic and known only to the communist leaders the border with Albania was opened so that many thousands of so called "emigrants" from Albania could freely settle on Kosovo with their families and herds of cattle. This new situation faced the Serbian population with many pressures of various kinds such as: looting, raping and murders that continued after the war, and even intensified in time. This happened under the tacit approval and tolerance of the ungodly communist regime almost until recent times. The consequences of this situation are such that the number of Serbian people in this area drastically decreased and still has a tendency of further decrease. The uncertainty and insecurity, which are still present in Kosovo, facilitate further emigration of the Serbian population from Kosovo and encourage them to sell their houses and property and depart to other regions of Serbia.

For the sake of clarity I am going to tell you some examples. Until 1964 Podujevo was almost completely a Serbian city without a single Albanian house. From 1964 a migration of the Serbian population began. Today, after only 30 years, the Podujevo municipality which also comprises 78 villages with the total of 130.000 inhabitants has no more than 1% of Orthdox Serbs. The same situation we have in Glogovac, Serbica and many other cities.

In Pristina there are thousands of Serbian houses and apartments offered for sale. In the "Gradic Pejton" district out of 20 houses, where until the last year lived only Serbs, there is now only one Serbian house. This can be read in the "Pristina Magazine" issue of January 1997 which brings on p. 18 a photo of the "Settlement which changed its owner". In another Pristina district called "Ulpiana" more than 30 Serbian houses were sold during the last year. The situation is the same in other cities and villages.

During the last 50 years in the same way more than 700 settlements in Kosovo and Metohija have become ethnically pure Albanian although some of them (like Podujevo) were completely Serbian before. In many of them Serbian houses and inhabitants were reduced to an irrelevant number.

All these facts show that the ratio between the Sebian and Albanian population in Kosovo and Metohija has not always been the same as it is now but is a consequence of various recent political and international relations, and to a greater degree the result of the Second World War occupation and the post- war ethnic-cleansing which was performed secretly, hidden from the eyes of the world, which suited the communist regime.

Despite all this we still exist in Kosovo and Metohija. The Sebian Orthodox Church is with its people now as it has been for centuries. It is our mission and our vocation in this world. We are trying to follow our forefathers in everything, even in the building of new churches and shrines in all areas where Serbs live today. In the last 6 years of my episcopal office in the Diocese of Raska and Prizren 20 churches have been built and consecrated and almost the same number are currently under construction. Best known among them are the new Cathedral in Pristina, churches in Obilic, Djakovica, Djurakovac and Zvecan. All these new churches are built out of great spiritual need and by no means out of any spite. We build them to the glory of God, for our salvation and the spritual benefit of our people.

Our old foundations were and have remained, as we could see, the century long stamps on our property deeds. Our new churches which we build in Kosovo and Metohija are and will be our anchors and pivots which will keep us together so that no storms and winds can blow us away from here. The Serbian people feels and understands its sacred duty and even in these economically difficult times and poverty does not hesitate to support its Church. Many old foundations have been renewed. The Monastery of St. Emperor Uros in Nerodimlje was reconstructed. The monasteries of St. Archangels near Prizren and Draganac near Gnjilane have also been renewed and during the summer we expect to start with the reconsturction of the Djurdjevi Stupovi monastery near Novi Pazar.

Beside the material renewal of our Church, Kosovo and Metohija has become again a spiritual centre of the Serbian people. Here we have a real bloom of Orthodox monasticism, which is a pledge for the overall spiritual renewal of our nation. It is enough only to visit Decani monastery with more than 20 young monks and novices, monasteries Crna Reka, Sopocani, Zociste with
many young monks in them and feel that spiritual strength which radiates from those young souls dedicated to God. Their life, faith, prayer and spiritual example are an encouragement for our people and stimulus for them to look for lasting and eternal values. They call our people to spiritual and natural regeneration. Therefore our renewal is not only spiritual but also biological
and material at the same time.

We know that renewal of the Serbian people in this region can be continued and bring the longed for results only if peace and security are preserved in this area. This will be possible only in a democratic Serbian state which will guarantee peace and harmony in everyday life and help the mutual understanding of all people of good will. That is why our wish is to see democracy restored in Serbia and that Serbia becomes a democratic, legal and economically strong and stable state. Only in this way, will Sebia be able to solve by democratic methods and with due respect to its international obligations all its internal questions and problems which have appeared in the last 50 years and among them the question of Kosovo and Metohija. Both Serbs and Albanians await the lasting and final solution of this problem. In this respect we expect your understanding and support for good, peace and prosperity of all peoples of Balkans, Europe and the whole world.

Thank you for your patience.

Bishop of Raska and Prizren
+ ARTEMY