„Organizing political liturgies makes you a political Church. As such, instead of bringing people together, you incite conflict. The Eternal God commands us to seek peace. Following ‘political gods’ instructions is a recipe for disaster, the SOC should have learned its lesson from the 1990s,“ the Kosovan Minister of Youth, Culture, and Sport, Hajrulla Ceku said last night.
In another Facebook post, this time in English, Ceku listed 14 points on why Visoki Decani is not endangered, and why it should be removed from lists of endangered cultural monuments. He also underlined that Serbia is not responsible for this monastery, but Kosovo.
Ceku claimed that interfaith harmony is a “quality which distinguishes Kosovar society.”
“We cultivate special respect towards our places of worship,” he emphasized.
“Our Republic took responsibility – we protect our heritage and guarantee religious freedom. We believe in the universality of cultural and religious heritage, and as such in its unifying potential. Thus, we strongly oppose attempts to exploit religion for particular political gains.”
He listed the mechanisms that protect the Serbian Orthodox Church. While claiming that Kosovo has fulfilled all its obligations arising from Ahtisaari Plan, he noted that Serbia failed to fulfill its only obligation – “return of the looted artifacts to Kosova.”
Ceku furthermore claimed that during the 98-99 war, Serbian forces “destroyed hundreds of Kosova’s cultural heritage assets.”
Addressing the 537 incidents at religious sites (mostly theft) reported to the police from 2014 to 2021, Ceku underlined that the majority of incidents took place at Muslim sites (61%), 31% of all incidents took place at Catholic sites, and 6% at Orthodox sites.
The two separate reports on the state of religious rights in Kosovo show different results, such as the one by the US State Department: State Department report on religious freedom: Decision on V. Decani’s land still ignored, 57 incidents targeting religious sites
And Kosovan civil society: The Kosovo government to provide better protection of religious sites and full enforcement of the Law on SPZ
He proceeded to accuse the SOC of “inciting conflict.”
“Following ‘political gods’ instructions is a recipe for disaster, the SOC should have learned its lesson from the 1990s,” he underlined.
According to Ceku, such “political liturgy” took place this week on the campus of the University in Pristina in the church built during “Milosevic’s genocidal rule.”
“The political liturgy of the SOC is direct pressure on the court, an attack on the judicial independence and a breach of rule of law.”
None of Ceku’s 14 points makes a mention of the Kosovo Constitutional Court’s decision to return the monastery land to Visoki Decani, which has not been implemented since 2016. This is one of the main reasons why the Diocese of Raska and Prizren stated recently that it suspended cooperation with Kosovo institutions.
Below we publish Ceku’s statement in its entirety.
1. Kosova taxpayers paid 6.9 million EUR, while the EU added another 2.9M EUR for the restoration of around 50 Orthodox sites and facilities damaged in March 2004 riots. Kosova courts tried dozens of perpetrators with jail sentences ranging from 21 months to 16 years.
2. Kosova Police has a special cultural heritage unit safeguarding orthodox churches. Out of 201 members of the unit, 30 (15%) are Kosova Serbs. According to KS Police and the KFOR Mission in Kosova, the last serious incident near an Orthodox church occurred in 2007.
3. According to Kosova Police, out of 57 incidents at religious sites during 2020, only eight occurred at Orthodox churches, while 45 at Muslim sites. Most of the 57 incidents were cases of theft, while none were classified as religiously motivated.
4. From 2014 to 2021, Police reported 537 incidents at religious sites (mostly theft), out of which 329 (61%) at Muslim sites, 166 (31%) at Catholic sites and 32 (6%) at Orthodox sites. Kosova Police provides security for around 200 Orthodox sites (24/7 presence in 24 of them).
5. The institution of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosova, as well as the Orthodox churches in the country enjoy all the constitutional, legal and institutional guarantees that ensure full respect of their rights, as well as a high level of safety.
6. Interfaith harmony is a quality which distinguishes Kosovar society. We cultivate special respect towards our places of worship and have provided innumerable historical evidence of their active protection.
7. The Kosova Law on Special Protective Zones guarantees the protection of 45 Orthodox churches and monasteries, other religious sites, as well as historical and cultural sites of special importance to the Serb community (thousands of hectares).
8. Kosova has established the Implementation and Monitoring Council to monitor and facilitate the implementation of the respective legislation. The IMC has five members, two gov’t ministers, the EU, the OSCE and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosova.
9. The Ahtisaari Plan’s annex on cultural heritage sets 15 major obligations in six articles. Kosova fulfilled all of its duties. There is only one obligation involving Serbia, but has never been implemented: the return of looted artifacts to Kosova.
10. Serbia continues to unjustly keep the looted archaeological and ethnological collection of Kosova (1,247 arteficts), in complete violation of the original agreement, the UNESCO Convention on cultural property and Ahtisaari Plan.
11. During 98-99 war, Serbian forces destroyed hundreds of Kosova’s cultural heritage assets. The sentencing judgments of The Hague Tribunal classified them as crimes against humanity. So far, no acceptance of responsibility, no apology, no reparation from Serbia.
12. Our Republic took responsibility – we protect our heritage and guarantee religious freedom. We believe in the universality of cultural and religious heritage, and as such in its unifying potential. Thus, we strongly oppose attempts to exploit religion for particular political gains.
13. Organizing political liturgies makes you a political Church. As such, instead of bringing people together, you incite conflict. The Eternal God commands us to seek peace. Following ‘political gods’ instructions is a recipe for disaster, the SOC should have learned its lesson from the 1990s.
14. There is an ongoing property dispute case for the unfinished structure built on the Univeristy of Prishtina campus during Milosevic’s genocidal reign. The political liturgy of the SOC is a direct pressure on the court, attack on judicial independence and breach of rule of law.
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