„Both sides condemn the crimes of Milosevic’s regime in Kosovo… We support the role of the International War Crimes Tribunal, peace can only be built on the foundations of justice,“ Sava Janjic, the abbot of the Visoki Decani monastery, recalled the statement he gave to the media in Pristina back in July 1999.
Father Sava Janjic read a joint statement by the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Serb leaders from central Kosovo after meeting with an Albanian delegation led by Hashim Thaci at UNMIK headquarters in Pristina, in the presence of the first head of the newly established mission, Sérgio de Vieira de Mello. De Mello was a Brazilian diplomat who was later killed in a bomb attack in Iraq in 2003, along with 20 other members of the UN mission.
“The Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo was the first Serbian institution to engage in UN sponsored dialogue with Kosovo Albanian leaders since the 1999 war. With my former Bishop I took part in meetings supporting reconciliation and denouncing violence from all sides,” he wrote on Wednesday, adding that, despite these efforts, the SOC with the remaining Serbs in Kosovo faced years of systematic destruction and a vicious media campaign which led even more Serbs into exile.
“Without KFOR/UN/EU/OSCE presence no Serbs would have survived up to the present day.”
The Abbot also expressed regret that the return of refugees has stopped 21 years after the war. He added that incidents continue and the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo remains targeted by “irresponsible institutions violating their own laws and media spreading rabid nationalism and ethnic/religious hatred.”
Father Sava, who is often criticized, along with the Serbian Orthodox Church, by the Kosovo media and the public, reminded of one of the controversial headlines in the Kosovo online media titled – „Sava Janjic, don’t lie, you are a criminal.“ He also shared photographs of the March violence.
Tensions in the Kosovo public over the Serbian Orthodox Church increased once again after local authorities tried to construct a highway through a special protective zone around the Decani monastery. The decision was met with the strong opposition of the clergy, who stressed that it violates the Special Protective Zones Act.
After tensions over the road construction subsided, Pristina-based Koha published an article in its cultural section entitled „Serb Appropriation of Medieval Arberian Monuments in Kosovo.“ The text alleged that Serbian rulers „usurped Catholic churches“ which are supposedly the heritage of the „autochthonous Catholic Arbers“ – i.e. Catholic Albanians.
The Diocese of Raska and Prizren immediately reacted to the article, stating that such a text „openly spreads ethnic and religious hatred“ towards Serbs in Kosovo and their cultural and spiritual heritage. The Diocese also accused the author, history professor Bedri Muhadri, of using „open propaganda“ and avoiding to apply international historical sources.
The Serbian Orthodox Church and its leaders in Kosovo, including Father Sava, have been criticized by the Kosovo public due to their alleged support for Milosevic’s regime. They however denied such accusations, particularly the clergy of the Decani monastery, who often remind that the monastery of Visoki Decani protected 200 Albanian refugees, numerous exiled Serb families, Roma, and one Gorani family in 1999.
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