Eparchy of Raska-Prizren leads a procession from Zvecan to Mitrovica in support to the Church in Montenegro

One month after the „Freedom of Religion Law“ was adopted in Montenegro, the protests by believers in this country and the countries in the region continue. The otherwise peaceful protests were recently marked by a number of incidents which took place on the Montenegrin streets. However, the religious protests organized by the Montenegrin Metropolitan and the SOC dioceses throughout the region remain populous and peaceful. The church also sent appeals that there is no place for violence here. Today, for the first time, a religious protest was also organized in northern Kosovo.

The procession will start from St. George’s Temple in Zvecan to St. Dimitrije’s Temple in North Mitrovica.

Earlier this week, Bishop Teodosije of Raska-Prizren invited citizens from from the north of Kosovo, to join the procession and the prayer, and express support for the preservation of Serbian shrines in Montenegro.

This will be the third lithium organized by the Eparchy of Raska-Prizren, although its clerics have showed their support to the religious protests in Montenegro.

The „Freedom of Religion Law“, first proposed by the Montenegrin government and adopted by its Assembly on December 27th, caused tensions between the Serbian Orthodox Church and Montenegrin authorities.

The disputed article of the aforementioned law stipulates that all religious communities, including the SOC, must prove that they owned the church property before 1918 – otherwise their property would be seized.

Immediately after the adoption of the law in the Montenegrin parliament, the Eparchy of Raska-Prizren also reacted, expressing fears that the implementation of this law in Montenegro could soon be used as a model in Kosovo.

„We remind the authorities in Montenegro that by their reckless decisions, they can directly threaten the rights and freedoms of our Church in Kosovo and in particular the preservation of our ancient Kosovo-Metohija shrines,“ the Eparchy wrote in a statement at the time.

The SOC described the law as “anti-democratic and discriminatory”, with the assessment that it „allows the abduction and desecration of holy sites, as well as the snuffing of the wills of their clergymen and endowers who bequeathed them to the Church and God, and not to any state or government.“

On the other hand, the ruling DPS party and its leader, the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, denied these claims and accused the SOC of “telling lies and manipulating“ and abusing the believers.

Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic has also been criticized over the new situation in Montenegro. The Serbian opposition blames him for failing to prevent the adoption of this law at a diplomatic level. They also expressed belief that Vucic and the Montenegrin president support the law. Additionally, a group of civil society activists accused Vucic for trying to destabilize Montenegro.

The Montenegrin Metropolitan, however, repeatedly underlined that protests should be separated from politics in this situation.

Three initiatives for the constitutional review of this law have been submitted to the Constitutional Court of Montenegro.

In addition to the initiative submitted by a group of Belgrade attorneys, the initiatives of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Patriarchate from Belgrade, represented by Patriarch Irinej, arrived on January 17.

In addition, three petitions have also been launched in relation to the situation in Montenegro. The so-called Appeal 88, which was initially signed by 88 intellectuals from Serbia and the region, launched by the Helsinki Committee blamed Serbia for destabilizing Montenegro. Shortly after, a second online petition containing a completely opposing message was launched online. Finally, a group of 100 Serb academics and activists launched an appeal which also sent a different message than that of the so-called Appeal 88, in which they sought the protection of SOC property in Montenegro.

Protest walks are held in Montenegro twice a week. So far, protests have been organized in almost all Montenegrin towns.

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