Kurti in a letter to Abbot of V. Decani: I want to visit the monastery and discuss issues of „common interest“

FOTO: Aljbin Kurti/ Kabinet kosovskog premijera
FOTO: Aljbin Kurti/ Kabinet kosovskog premijera

In the same week that Kurti wrote to UNESCO, asking it to remove four Orthodox monasteries in Kosovo, including Visoki Decani, from the list of endangered monuments, the Kosovo Prime Minister also sent a letter to the monastery’s abbot, Sava Janjic.

In the letter, Kurti wrote that the government of Kosovo is committed to the protection of the cultural heritage of all communities in Kosovo. He expressed his desire to visit the Visoki Decani monastery to discuss issues of common interest with the abbot of this monastery.

“Our government is interested in protecting all of Kosova’s cultural heritage. The cultural diversity of our country is the strongest guarantee for lasting peace. As Prime Minister of Kosova, I will protect all of our monuments, and particularly the Orthodox churches and monasteries,” Kurti stressed.

He emphasized that “Kosova’s rich cultural heritage is a source of pride, identity, and education for our state and people.”

According to Kurti, Kosovan institutions have taken “countless actions to protect the cultural rights of non-majority communities.”

“We want to continue with good work so that all our citizens can enjoy unhindered our common cultural assets with universal values.”

He estimated that “only through direct and honest communication can we better understand each other, remove prejudices and misunderstandings and address common challenges.”

“Looking forward to your reply to determine the details of the visit” – Kurti wrote.

The Kosovo Prime Minister’s letter to the abbot of the monastery Visoki Decani was published last night on social networks by the Kosovo Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hajrulla Ceku.

Ceku reiterated that the Kosovo government is committed to the protection of cultural heritage in Kosovo, especially of Orthodox churches. He underlined that dialogue with the Orthodox clergy in Kosovo is the only way to a lasting solution.

The Kosovan Minister of Culture, Youth, and Sports also revealed that no answer to Kurti’s letter had arrived so far.

„We can face common challenges only through communication that nurtures a climate of trust. Rhetoric that incites hatred and discord between communities is not the solution and everyone should oppose it,“ Ceku said.

The day after Europa Nostra announced that it included Visoki Decani on its list of the seven most endangered monuments in Europe for this year, this minister also published a letter Albin Kurti and Vjosa Osmani sent to this organization when Visoki Decani was shortlisted.

The monastery of Visoki Decani, as well as the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, have not reacted to this letter so far. Amid the latest tensions between the church and the Kosovo authorities, Bishop Teodosije of Raska and Prizren informed the public that all communication with Kosovo authorities is suspended until the rule of law is established and the decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the return of the land to the Visoki Decani Monastery is fully implemented.

Tensions since April

Europa Nostra’s decision to include Visoki Decani on its list of the 7 most endangered monuments for 2021 at the beginning of April triggered an avalanche of negative reactions from Kosovo officials.

Several letters from the highest Kosovo officials have been published on social media and in other media since March, referring first to Europa Nostra on three occasions, after the latter included Visoki Decani on the list of the 7 most endangered European cultural monuments for this year – opposing the decision. They also alleged that Europa Nostra has been deceived.

Last week, top Kosovo officials – Albin Kurti, Vjosa Osmani, and Glauk Konjufca – also urged UNESCO to remove Visoki Decani and three other SOC monasteries from the endangered list, to list Kosovo as the responsible state party for them instead of Serbia as it was so far, and accept Kosovo as a member into UNESCO. They boasted that Kosovo cares about the diversity of life and the rights of all.

This letter triggered negative reactions from the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, the abbot of Visoki Decani, as well as Belgrade officials.

In a response to the Pristina officials’ statements that they are looking after Orthodox sites in Kosovo, the Diocese reminded that the decision of the Kosovo Constitutional Court to return the land to the monastery of Visoki Decani has still not been implemented five years after it was made.

The second point of contention between the SOC and Kosovo authorities is the construction of the Decani-Plav road near the monastery. The construction was finally suspended by a joint agreement between the Diocese and the Kosovo authorities with the mediation of KFOR and the support of Quint countries and international agencies at the end of last year.

It was then agreed to build a bypass for the main road, which would not violate the special protective zone around the monastery, and rehabilitate the existing local road – which would keep its local character – located near the monastery.

However, the Diocese also pointed to a statement made by Kosovo’s Minister of Spatial Planning, Liburn Aliu, who opposes the agreement, despite being the co-chairman of the Implementation and Monitoring Council for the Implementation of the Law on Special Protective Zones.

There are other points of contentions between the Diocese and the Kosovo authorities, including the unfinished Church of the Holy Savior in Pristina. At the same time, several incidents at religious sites have been registered lately, to which the Diocese and the Bishop regularly reacted and draw attention. So far, these incidents have mostly been either ignored or denied by the top Kosovo officials, who accuse the Serbian side of media exploitation with the goal of including the topic of the SOC in Kosovo in the talks in Brussels.

Bishop Teodosije: The inflammatory rhetoric of Kosovo leaders directly raises ethnic and religious tensions




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