Fr. Sava: The paradox that the Church must remind Kosovo to respect its own laws and the constitution

Otac Sava Janjic
Otac Sava Janjic

“Kosovo leaders say that Serbian Orthodox Church doesn’t recognize Kosovo state. We’re not a state or political entity to do so. As the Serbian Orthodox Church here we respect the laws and courts living here as citizens. Kosovo’s obligations to us come from its Constitution and laws” – reads the reaction of the Abbot of the Visoki Decani Monastery, Sava Janjic to Osmani’s and Kurti’s letter in which they opposed Europa Nostra’s decision to include the SOC monastery on the list of the 7 most endangered cultural heritage sites in Europe.

“By the way, Kosovo is not recognized by the Vatican as a state. UN, EU, OSCE, NATO, UNESCO… as organizations, political entities and many states do not recognize Kosovo officially as a state either which is a much bigger problem for Kosovo than the Serbian Orthodox Church’s opinion,” the Abbot added.

He argued that it is quite a paradoxical situation that the Church has to remind Kosovo to respect its own constitution and laws.

“The Constitutional Court of Kosovo in 2016 made a decision recognizing the Decani monastery’s land. It is Kosovo’s decision not ours, and it is not yet implemented,” Abbot Sava reminded that the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo of the return of 24 ha of monastery land has not been implemented even five years after the case was finalised.

Every year, on the anniversary of the day the Constitutional Court decided to return the confiscated land to the Visoki Decani monastery – May 19th, foreign diplomats, primarily the US and British ambassadors, have been reminding of the fact that this constitutional decision has not been implemented yet.

Father Sava’s reaction arrives on the day Kosovo officials celebrated 13 years of the Kosovo constitution with a rest day, and a series of ceremonies and meetings.

In response to allegations of concern for the cultural and religious heritage of Serbs in Kosovo expressed in the letter the Kosovo officials sent to Europa Nostra, the archimandrite emphasized:

“Wishful reality of alleged inter-religious harmony in Kosovo which the local Kosovo Albanian officials try to spread is being denied by so many facts on the ground. Thefts, vandalisms, denial of identity, non-implementation of KS laws and court decisions tell quite the opposite story.”

The rights of the SOC in Kosovo are seriously endangered

Father Sava told N1 yesterday that the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo are „seriously endangered“ and that it is „inconceivable“ that the issue of cultural and religious heritage of the Serb people will not be included in the agenda once the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina continues, because Kosovo’s institutions „do not respect their own laws.“

„Kosovo authorities often act as if they live in a parallel reality. On the one hand, they say that there is inter-religious and inter-ethnic harmony, while discrimination against Serbs and especially the Serbian Orthodox Church, which is being denied its basic rights, has never been more intense. Only in the last two months there have been so many attacks on our churches, robberies. We are constantly dealing with the denial of the identity of our Church whose name of the Serbian Orthodox Church they cannot even pronounce,“ he also said.

 According to the Abbot, such behavior makes it even more urgent for the additional level of protection of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo to be discussed within the Belgrade-Pristina EU facilitated dialog.

“What remains of the Ahtisaari 2008 provisions for our Church is hardly respected anymore.”

„To improve the rights and protection of the Church in a climate of aggressive pan-Albanian rhetoric and the denial of Serb identity“ (N1)

„The reference to the Ahtisaari plan is now increasingly being overcome by the new situation on the ground, primarily because all the provisions from Annex 5 on the Serbian Orthodox Church have never been included in the constitution and laws of Kosovo and because even what has been included has not been adequately respected. Obviously, we should work on improving the rights of our Church and its institutional protection in the conditions of aggressive pan-Albanian rhetoric and the denial of the Serb spiritual, cultural and national identity in Kosovo.“

Visoki Decani Monastery has been included in a list as one of the most endangered monuments and heritage sites in Europe in 2021. Kosovo’s recently elected president, Vjosa Osmani, and Prime Minister, Albin Kurti, however, objected to this decision.

In a letter they sent to the influential organization for the protection of cultural heritage, Europa Nostra – which placed Visoki Decani on its list – on March 18th, even before the final decision on the list was made, they shared arguments proving why Visoki Decani does not meet the criteria to be included the 7 Most Endangered program.

“The Monastery of Decani is in good condition, it enjoys full constitutional and legal guarantees, as well as complete security, without any danger that threatens it. It is one of the monuments that the state and society of Kosovo are proud of, as was the case throughout history, we will continue to protect it with much love and devotion in the future as well” – reads Kurti’s and Osmani’s letter.

Moreover, they wrote that they are “particularly pleased that no serious incidents have been reported in the Orthodox churches, at least not in the last decade.”

Kurti and Osmani then proceeded to accuse the SOC in Kosovo of only receiving the rights stemming from the Ahtisaari Package while rejecting the responsibilities.

According to them, another “special cause for concern” lies in the “camouflaged political purpose” of the nomination itself – to establish a link between the need to protect the monastery and the political talks between Kosovo and Serbia.

Europa Nostra responded this week, informing them that the final decision would be made on April 8th. That day, the Visoki Decani was included on a list as one of the most endangered monuments and heritage sites in Europe in 2021.

This organization underlined that its goal is to serve as a catalyst for positive change and not to use the Decani monastery case for further political divisions.

Read more:

Europa Nostra: Our goal is to serve as a catalyst for positive change and not to use the Decani monastery case for further political divisions

Kurti and Osmani in a letter to Europa Nostra before the final decision on Decani: Churches in Kosovo are not endangered


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