Bishop Maksim on the Monograph of Christian Heritage: It sends a message that we should not erase others

Hrišćansko nasleđe Kosova i Metohije na engleskom jeziku Vladika Maksim
FOTO: Sabornikpress

„When there is someone’s most precious possession, culture is never just the past. As a collection of testimonies, our monograph has modest ambitions. Its editors and publishers have a firm hope that today’s peoples in Kosovo will be able to resume their talks while placing a positive emphasis on all that is constructive, such is on the areas in which there was once some kind of Serbian-Albanian ethnic symbiosis,” reads the response of the Bishop Maksim of Western America and the editor of the book „Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija“ to the harsh reactions of the Kosovo Albanians after the book’s title appeared on a photo shared by an EU official on his Twitter profile.

A single detail of a photo the Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi shared recently on Twitter of his meeting with Aleksandar Vucic, held at the premises of the Serbian Mission to the EU in Brussels, was enough to provoke a wave of criticism and severe accusations against European officials. The contentious detail in the photo was a book titled „Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija“ which was visible on a table, right between the two politicians.

„More than a diplomatic scandal, provocation and partiality“, a „chauvinist book“ and the „promotion of fascism“ in European institutions – read some of the comments from Pristina. The Kosovo Minister of Foreign Affairs, Meliza Haradinaj Stublla was one of the loudest critics of the book. In addition to these comments, Haradinaj Stublla described it also as „a derivative of ethnic cleansing and territorial claims, which destroy a sovereign and independent country.“ The Minister also sent a note of protest to the EC, alleging that it promotes „ethnic hatred with offensive content and it is an unacceptable name for Kosovo.“

The editor of the book, Bishop Maksim of Western America spoke to Serbia Americana about the book published by the LA-based „Sebastian Press“ back in 2015. He is considered as one of the most educated orthodox religious leaders including the field of Art, but at the same time harshly criticized within the Church for his openness in presenting both his religious and intellectual views.

He reminded of the book’s initial edition from 1987, which was over 800 pages long and which has since been expanded to 1,008 pages, prepared by dozens of top experts, scholars, professors, historians, artists, and the dean and professors of the Faculty of Theology – headed by Patriarch Pavle. He had personally worked on the first 1987 edition of the book, while serving as the then Bishop of Raska-Prizren Pavle for 33 years. Some SANU members also worked on the expanded edition, such as Professor Batakovic, scholar Subotic, Bishops Amfilohije, Irinej, Grigorije, prof. Predrag Puzovic, Dean of the Orthodox Theological Faculty and prof. Sijakovic.

Speaking about the motivation behind this edition, Bishop Maksim, who lives and works in the US, said he believed it was his duty to present the spiritual, historical, and cultural significance of the heritage of Kosovo Serbs to international institutions and the academic community – and to do so independently from politics.

„The injustice committed by the NATO countries and the International Protectorate in Kosovo and Metohija is reflected in the fact that their intervention did not bring peace, justice, and security to the Serbian people, the Serbian church and holy sites. That is why my associates and I wanted to point out all the aspects of our Kosovo heritage, its history, and spiritual heritage by publishing it in English. The existence of such a book in the academy of scientific monographs and world libraries will influence academic discussions and cannot be ignored when writing the future history of this area of ours,“ said Bishop Maksim.

In the meantime, and after being criticized by Pristina, the book also became available in an online edition. As the Diocese explained, the book is now available online so that all interested parties may familiarize themselves with its content.

“By advocating the advantages of spiritual culture over politics, the book ‘Christian Heritage of Kosovo and Metohija’ helps readers to overcome the narrow ideological approach, characteristic to our times,“ he said, adding that it also helps to prevail over „nationalist narrative“ and „all divisions in the politically tense atmosphere of the past and present Kosovo.“

Bishop Maksim claimed that Pristina’s assessments of the book are „biased“ while recalling the peacekeeping role of Patriarch Pavle – during his 33 years of service at the head of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren in Kosovo, which focused on „serving others“ and not „ruling over others“, and his work to launch the book in the late ’80s, said Maksim.

When asked if the book is anti-Albanian, the Bishop replied that it „cannot and does not have a gloating quality.“

„It also shows that the challenge of reconciling legitimate Serbian sovereignty with the Kosovo Albanians’ desire for self-government is not an insurmountable obstacle. In Kosovo, one cannot help but notice the pain of the sensitive souls of both sides, two peoples seeking help. And we feel as if God has not yet said his last word or judgment about Kosovo and Metohija,“ he said.

According to the Bishop, this book is an invitation to all parties to see their differences in the light of history and the future.

With his life, Christ taught us to exist not to rule over others; or more precisely: that we can become rulers only if we serve others. If we live without erasing others. We do not want to win by harming others, but we want to live with joy that lifts everyone out of despair. That is the message of the monograph!

„The new revised Albanian history and the educational system of the Pristina authorities go hand in hand intending to impose a pseudo-identity on some of the largest sanctuaries that turned Kosovo into a Serbian Jerusalem,” the Bishop Maksim concluded.

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