Kosovo Police prevented Orthodox Christians from celebrating the Day of the Holy Spirit in the village of Donje Petrič near Klina

Photo: The Docese of Ras-Prizren

The Ras-Prizren diocese statement

Today, the Kosovo Police prevented around thirty Serbs displaced from the village of Donji Petric near Klina, along with their parish priest Jovan Cvetkovic, from celebrating the Day of the Holy Spirit, the patronal feast day of the village church of the Holy Trinity. This church was mined by Albanian extremists in June of 1999. Even though the priest and his parishioners had sought police protection the previous day, considering that last year the gathering of the faithful for the feast was attacked by local Albanians, the police did not agree to protect the liturgical gathering. However, neither was it stated in writing that the faithful would therefore not be able to gather in Petric at the ruins of their church and bless the festal bread and wheat.

KP: Forbidden gathering due to the safety of citizens – the yard was covered with bushes

Kosovo police explained in the statement to RTK2, that citizens, without any warning or request for security from the police, wanted to gather in the courtyard of a church, but prevented them due to the safety reasons.

„The Kosovo police did not allow the gathering due to the safety of the citizens, because the church yard was not under control, it was covered with bushes and grass, so the ban on gathering was solely for the purpose of citizens’ safety,“ read the police statement.

ERP KiM: An entirely meaningless attempt to justify discriminatory behavior and law violations

In the meantime, the Raska-Prizren Diocese commented on the police statement as „an utterly hypocritical attempt to justify the unlawful conduct of an order of the authorities“.

„The fact is that the demolished St. Trinity church’s compound in Donji Petrič is the property of the Serbian Orthodox Church. As such, no one can prevent individuals from stepping into even untamed meadows, so no one has the right to prevent a gathering that was approved by the Raska-Prizren Diocese as the landlord. The behavior of the Kosovo Police, as if it were a socially-owned property, alleging it „not safe“ due to untamed grass or who knows what else, is completely absurd and an attempt to justify discriminatory behavior and violations of the law. The believers did not face any danger in absolutely any way, no protesters rallied or were threatened by anyone, except by the police themselves – who denied them access to the church, instead of helping the believers who had addressed them. The believers should be entitled to their religious freedom,“ the Diocese said in a statement .

Nevertheless, the priest and faithful set out for the church in the morning at their own risk, in accordance with their right to freedom of movement and freedom of religious expression. When they arrived at the ruined church, a large group of police were waiting for them, saying that they would not be allowed to access the church or bless the festal bread, giving the excuse that it was apparently unsafe. Despite the priest and people’s conviction that there was no danger, since none of the local Albanians had showed up to protest, and the rite of blessing the bread would last all of ten minutes, the police insisted that the gathered Serbs disperse. At the same time, the local representative of UNMIK, Ms. Galieva, was called. In the end, not only did the police forbid the religious ritual from being carried out and prayers from taking place at the site of the church, they also photographed everyone present and checked their IDs, as well as taking down their license plate numbers.

Donji Petrič
Photo: The Docese of Ras-Prizren

Local resident Bozidar Sarkovic confirmed that around 30 Serbs gathered to mark the holiday in the village where they had once lived. “Last year, we were physically attacked by Albanians from the village. However, this year they didn’t come, but there were a lot of police, and they didn’t allow us to enter the church yard where the ruins of the Church of the Holy Trinity are. Despite the fact that we made requests and announcements on Friday to the police, the UN, KFOR, and the OSCE, last night an inspector called me and said that our gathering in Petric village would be forbidden,” said Sarkovic.

The Diocese of Raska-Prizren condemns this blatant violation of the freedom of movement and of the right to hold a religious gathering on church property in the strongest terms. This sort of police conduct demonstrates extreme discrimination and, in fact, it was without any reason that they forbade this religious gathering. This kind of relationship with the police only serves to prevent Orthodox Christian believers from freely gathering at the ruins of their holy site and sends a clear message that their return to their village is an impossibility. In a similar manner, coordinated efforts between local extremists and the police prevented the celebrations of church feasts in Djakovica and in Musutiste near Suva Reka, where two years ago the police wrongfully detained a 75 year old Serbian man under false accusations and held him in detention for four months.

In this way, Serbs are bullied not only into not exercising their legal right to return to their property, but even from prayerfully observing feast days at their ruined holy sites, all with the intent of creating an ethnically pure Albanian society in Kosovo and Metohija. It is even more concerning that, increasingly, the international community fails to pay attention to such cases, which then creates a model for an institutionally-supported ethnic cleansing.

In light of the most recent incident, Bishop Teodosije of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren called upon the international and regional authorities to respect the existing laws and to avoid creating a situation, under the guise of security, in which the safest areas are those with no Serbs. This is a completely disingenuous and shameful message twenty years after the end of the war in Kosovo and twenty years since the beginning of a peace for all residents guaranteed by international authorities without regard for their ethnic or religious affiliation, things which are all obligations of the still-valid UN Resolution 1244.

Last year, in its May 31st communique, the Diocese protested an attack on the faithful in Petric village in the strongest terms, along with a string of similar incidents



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