BISHOP ARTEMIJE TO MR. BERNARD KOUCHNER AND
Bernard Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary-General
General Sir Michael Jackson, COMKFOR, Pristina
Gracanica, July 27, 1999
In the recent several days our community has been exposed to another wave of violence and crimes in which new innocent victims have fallen and additional damage to our religious and cultural heritage has been inflicted.
Only since Sunday, July 25, three of our churches have been completely destroyed by explosive, despite continual appeals to you that our monuments should be more adequately preserved. The destroyed churches are:
The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Djakovica which has previously been vandalized,
torched inside and desecrated (even with human feces)
In the meantime we have received confirmation on destruction of several other churches in the province. The number of churches destroyed or seriously damaged in the period AFTER the arrival of KFOR to Kosovo is now over 30. There is a fear that at least 20 more village churches or chapels are also damaged or destroyed, which still has to be confirmed.
As a Christian Bishop and a human being I feel deep disappointment with the failure of the United Nations and NATO to protect my people, the spiritual and cultural heritage of our Church in Kosovo and Metohija. I can understand that every Serb home or a cemetery chapel cannot be preserved but I am absolutely at a loss to understand that in the middle of a city a beautiful new cathedral can be destroyed by hundreds of kilos of explosive in the presence of KFOR and despite our continual appeals that our churches should be guarded and protected.
Gentlemen, the United Nations and NATO have taken upon themselves an obligation to establish peace and stability, to protect the cultural heritage and to suppress repression. We have wholeheartedly greeted the arrival of the international forces as a relief for all peoples in Kosovo which have gone through a horrible war and destruction caused by one totalitarian regime and its satellites. But now, after two months, the results of the "peace" for our community are devastating: more than 130.000 refugees, hundreds of killed or missing people, thousands of homes destroyed, our most beautiful churches leveled to the ground and turned into rubble. And all this has happened when all mechanisms of peace are present in Kosovo together with almost 40.000 KFOR soldiers.
I assure you that the systematic destructions of our churches and monasteries are NOT the work of uncontrolled revenge by individual frustrated Albanian villagers. This is a work of professional groups and miners who have explosive and know how to use it. The systematic expulsions in Pristina, setting on fire of entire non-Albanian quarters of cities all over Kosovo ARE the work of an extremist organization called UCK which is responsible for hundreds of innocent victims since the outbreak of hostilities in Kosovo in 1998. Surprisingly, there is a continual attempt to hide this truth from the public because, we are afraid, both UN and KFOR do not seem to be ready to take a risk to confront this terrorist organization, or at least its extremist wing, in the way their governments do in their own countries.
The main objective of the UCK has always been very clear - purge all Serbs and other non-Albanians from Kosovo and create de facto a situation in which the international community would be forced to recognize the independence of the province. The independence of Kosovo and Metohija would be a first step for further unification of all "Albanian lands" which is a century old dream of Albanian nationalists. The international community has managed to defeat one equally destructive idea of "Greater Serbia", but now remains almost helpless while the "Greater Albania" is being created in front of the eyes of the whole world with worst crimes ever conducted in the time of PEACE.
Our Church and our people have suffered a lot from one authoritarian regime. We want to live in peace and democracy in this region with all peoples of good will. I am sure that this is a dream of many Kosovo Albanians who have shared good and evil with their Serb neighbors through centuries. That is why we have accepted to work together with UN on establishing of the transitional administration in the province believing that we could contribute to our better future. But as much as we have made efforts to cooperate with the UCK, their activists have intensified their campaign and persecution against our people and our Church. While we were stretching our hand of reconciliation and openly condemned the crimes committed by the Milosevic regime and his supporters among our people, the crimes against our innocent people have multiplied and our monuments and churches were mercilessly destroyed even with more rage and hatred.
Nevertheless, we are still ready to work on peace because only in that way we can make things better but we are ready to work ONLY with those who sincerely want peace and follow their words with actions. Unfortunately, such people still do not seem to sit in the Council from the Albanian side and the UCK leaders beside their words which are suited to gain the support of the world and their money DO NOTHING concretely to prevent organized crimes against the non-Albanians, although they have full power and ifluence there where the crimes occur.
Therefore, before the results of investigation on the latest crime in Gracko, the thorough investigation on destruction of our churches and monasteries and cessation of the Nazi-like persecution of our people, we ARE SIMPLY NOT IN POSITION to further participate in the Transitional Kosovo Council because we would otherwise lose all credibility and support among our people and would give an alibi to the extermination of our people. Regretfully, neither of our previous requests have been fulfilled so far: Serbs are still persecuted as animals and when we ask the UCK for mercy and restraint they blackmail us asking from us to free their prisoners from Milosevic's prisons, as if we are keeping them in detention. Two of our priests were kidnapped and the UCK has done nothing to set them free, although at least one of them was seen kidnapped by the people in UCK uniforms and the UCK leaders are powerful enough to find them. The Serb monuments in Pristina are not only reinstalled to their previous positions but the additional ones were destroyed. Not a single flat or house has been given back to the Serbs evicted from their homes. On the contrary Serb families are constantly expelled from their homes and persecuted with such cruelty which can be compared to that of Nazis against the Jews in the Second World War. Elderly women are raped and beaten, our people starve in their flats unable to get food. The Serbs in Kosovo have become the people without their freedom and basic human rights. And all this happens under the umbrella of the NATO and UN.
Although we sincerely appreciate the efforts of men and women from the KFOR who are doing their best to help us, in our opinion, UN and NATO must clearly define a NEW STRATEGY for Kosovo and Metohija or recognize their defeat. UN administration cannot be fully put into action before the KFOR does everything to suppress and disarm gangs of criminals who even run concentration camps for non-Albanians. If the things continue as they are now, Kosovo and Metohija will soon become an ethnically cleansed area ruled by the Albanian narco-mafia and extremists, NATO and UN will be forced to admit their failure and a new precedent will be made for extremists all over the world. Despite all efforts multiethnic administration will never work properly until the extremists are tolerated to continue their campaign of terror. Even the moderate Albanians around Mr. Rugova are pushed in the background and logically refuse participation in the Council which we fully understand. The extremist leaders MUST be marginalized in the same way as they were marginalized in Bosnia for the sake of peace and better future. The foremost role in this process belongs to NATO. The investigation on crimes committed against the non-Albanians as well as Albanians who disagreed with extremists must be thoroughly conducted by ICTY and KFOR. It is impossible that after two months of systematic campaign by the UCK no responsibility on their side has been proved. During the 1998-1999 more than 200 Serb civilians were kidnapped by the UCK, some were found brutally killed. We simply ask ourselves - Why there is no investigation on these crimes about which there is an ample documentation? Is it possible that after destruction of 30 churches there is not a single clue who might stand behind these actions? How can happen that thousands of Serb homes were torched in a months' time on the systematic base and that these acts are still considered as a work of frustrated individuals, while the Albanian leaders do not even recognize any blame on their side? Albanian society is so integrated and based on hierarchical relations that nothing can happen without the knowledge of their local leaders. Why are the borders between Kosovo - Macedonia and Albania left open and why the world has allowed this province to become European Columbia and the most lawless area of Europe together with North Albania?
These are only some of the questions for which we expect an answer? We simply do not have choice but to remain confident that this time you will take most seriously these arguments into account and finally stop the tragedy of the province. If you are not capable or ready to confront the real trouble makers, please tell us to let our people organize their own protection and administration or let us simply collectively leave and let the UCK organize an ethnically cleansed state with or without your approval. But you know very well that Kosovo without Serbs will soon transfer the problems to Macedonia and elsewhere in the Balkans. Neither we nor you want that to happen.
Therefore, we implore you once again to make public the results of investigation on the latest massacre of the Serb farmers and the destruction of our churches. We know that you have experts and intelligence services which can do it. Let not only the direct perpetrators be publicly identified but rather those who organize such barbarous actions. In the meantime we sincerely expect that at least the remaining churches (especially in the Western part of the province) will be more adequately protected. We also insist that the ruins of our churches are by no means removed or cleared out. Even our destroyed churches are still holy for us and remain important for us as our martyred shrines. The Albanian extremists must not be allowed to build their buildings or make parks on the places of their crimes. Until the time they are reconstructed we want these horrible ruins to be the living remainder of the worst destruction and madness in Europe committed in the time of peace and full presence of the international forces. These ruins are clearly reminding us that the final goal of the Albanian extremists and terrorists is anti-Christian, anti-Civilizational and anti-European. We ask you again to show clear determination against the Albanian extremists as you have shown against the Milosevic regime and also to act as decisively on behalf of our suffering people as you did when the Albanian civilians were suffering. Only in that way you would prove your credibility and leadership and help us to make our people retain confidence in you.
Our further participation in the Kosovo Council and the organs of the transitional administration now completely depends of you and your determination and readiness to create conditions which would bring moderate Serbs and moderate Albanians of Mr. Rugova back to the Council. We believe and pray that that will happen soon.