Protest against yesterday’s liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior

Foto: Kallxo

The graffiti „Jesus hates Serbs,“ which was sprayed on the gate of the unfinished Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina after yesterday’s Patron Saint’s Day celebration – held for the first time in 23 years – was removed this morning. The activists of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), which governs Pristina, removed this graffiti, only to draw a new one: „The symbol of chauvinism is becoming a holy site, with the blessing of Albin Kurti.“ They also held a protest against yesterday’s liturgy in front of this church.

The Kosovo media is flooded with reactions – criticism of yesterday’s liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior. The liturgy was served by Bishop Teodosije of Raska and Prizren and attended by a small group of Orthodox believers.

Zgjim Hyseni from the PSD said that they erased the original graffiti written by „someone“ – because the aim is not to incite religious or interethnic hatred.

Late last night, a British publicist currently living in the region, Ian Bancroft, posted a photo on Twitter showing a freshly sprayed graffiti „Jesus hates Serbs“ on the Church of Christ the Savior.

University of Pristina students held a protest against yesterday’s liturgy. The protest was held in the courtyard of the church, which the students claim is the property of the university.

Foto: KoSSev

As RTV Kim reports, approximately 40 protesters gathered in the courtyard, displaying banners with inscriptions: „Never again“, „Church as a symbol of perpetrators of genocide.“ They also displayed photos of Slobodan Milosevic and Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, for whom they claim to represent a symbol of the construction of this church in Pristina.

A large number of members of the Kosovo Police and media crews were also present in the church courtyard.

Zgjim Hyseni said that „the symbol of chauvinism attempted to become a holy site in front of the ‘noses’ of Kosovo institutions, on the eve of the dialogue with Belgrade.“ The same inscription was sprayed on the church door this morning by the PSD members.

He alleged that religion is used for the superior interests of Serbia.

„Institutions said yesterday, specifically the Minister of Culture said that they were not aware of that. Then all officials, from the Minister of the Interior to the Intelligence Service, should take responsibility, and tender their resignations. If this is happening in the middle of Pristina, after this action, we are not safe under their leadership,“ Hyseni said, Kallxo reports.

Foto: KoSSev

Simultaneously with the students’ protest, a session is underway in the Kosovo Assembly dedicated to the upcoming dialogue with Belgrade, in which a heated debate is also taking place between Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the opposition.

One of the topics at the session is yesterday’s event in the Church of Christ the Savior.

Alliance for the Future of Kosovo MP Time Kadrijaj asked the Kosovo government whether the church had the government’s permission to hold yesterday’s liturgy.

She reminded that while Self-Determination was part of the opposition, it protested in front of this church so that such activities would not be allowed, but now, when it is in power, LVV has no information about that.

Yesterday’s celebration of the Patron Saint’s Day in the Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina triggered an avalanche of reactions in the Kosovo public. The first to condemn were Daut Haradinaj, the CDHRF, and Enver Hoxhaj.

Daut Haradinaj, a future candidate for mayor of Pristina, described the event as „an insult to the citizens of Kosovo“ and a provocation. Haradinaj also called on the government and the municipality to react immediately.

In its reaction, the Council for the Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, better known as CDHRF, also used the same words – „insult“ and „provocation“ for students.

According to the CDHRF, the fact that the service was organized in an unfinished building with an unregulated legal status is a „manipulation“. This organization is also known for its recent attack on the abbot of Visoki Decani, Sava Janjic.

The leader of Kosovo’s Democratic Party, Enver Hoxhaj, says that the „character of the state of Kosovo is now endangered“ and that „new topics have been opened“ in the dialogue with Belgrade, which is set to continue on June 15th.

“Organizing a deeply political liturgy 22 years after the war, when the wounds of the pain of the war are still open, and doing so with the full approval of Kurti’s government, is painful and unacceptable,” he concluded.

The Kosovo government reacted last night through the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hajrulla Ceku, who announced that the government was informed yesterday about the event of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, held in an unfinished building „built on a property owned by the University of Pristina during the Serbian repressive regime in Kosovo.“

Ceku added that the Kosovo Police were not informed in advance, which is a“ violation of the rules of public safety in Kosovo.“

Underlining that the freedom of religious activities is guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of Kosovo, Ceku also added that „religious activities cannot be used for political purposes, nor can they violate order, law and justice.“

„We paid a high price for the peace we enjoy today, so Kosovo institutions will not tolerate actions that affect public safety, intervene in the independence of the judiciary and promote conflicts that threaten coexistence between communities,“ wrote Ceku.

A former close adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, Shkelzen Gashi, stressed that Kosovo must avoid falling into the trap of having a repeat of March 17th by reacting to this „provocation“ by the SOC.

He recalled that the SOC churches in Kosovo are regulated by the Ahtisaari package for which the current (opposition) parties voted and that is why it is time for them to „be quiet“.

The executive director of the Kosovo Foundation „Cultural Heritage without Borders“, Sali Soshi, assessed yesterday’s celebration as a political event and a „provocation that Kosovo did not fall for“.

According to Soshi, its goal was to provoke a social reaction that will be used as an argument for „Serbia’s extraterritorial aspirations“.

„When I say provocation, I mean the fact that the ‘mass’ was organized in a building built during the Milosevic regime, located in the middle of the university campus, so the land is occupied by the University and which was built to show the goals of that regime. It is a very good thing that as a society, we did not fall for provocations, but state institutions should make an effort to prevent and warn of the danger that comes from these provocations,“ he wrote in a Facebook post, Koha reported.

In addition to the students, the University of Pristina also reacted, expressing “deep concern over the religious ceremony organized by the Serbian Orthodox Church yesterday, in a building illegally built by the former Serbian regime on the UP campus,” the institution said early this morning.

They stated that they would take all necessary legal actions in order for the university campus to finally be free of all illegally built facilities, including the facility in which „the ceremony in question was organized“.

For years, however, this cathedral has been the subject of a dispute between the Kosovo public and the authorities, that is, a dispute with the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Almost four years ago, the University of Pristina, which is located near the church, sued the Serbian Orthodox Church for the alleged usurpation of more than four hectares of university land.

As the land is officially owned by the Orthodox Church „St. Nicholas“, the Diocese responded to the lawsuit of the University of Pristina with a counter-lawsuit. In 2017, the University lost the first lawsuit, while the hearing scheduled to be held in March this year before the Basic Court in Pristina was postponed, the Kosovo media reported.

The Church of Christ the Savior, whose construction began in 1990 only to be suspended in 1998 due to the outbreak of war in Kosovo, was repeatedly subjected to attacks, while several attempts were made to mine the church. At one point, the church was even used as a public toilet. A music video was filmed at the site, and in 2015, and the walls of the church served as „rock-climbing walls“.

While Kosovo Albanians believe that the church was built on university land, the Church has repeatedly emphasized that it will treat any attack on the cathedral as an open attack on the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Diocese of Raska and Prizren emphasized today that it remains persistent, along with the believers, in its efforts to complete this church as soon as possible and to serve liturgies in it.

Read more:

Saint Patron’s Day celebrated in the Church of Christ the Savior in Pristina for the first time since ’98

Reactions from Pristina to the liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior: Provocations will not be tolerated, protest to be held today

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