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

Foto: Eparhija raško-prizrenska

„We were informed today 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. The Kosovo Police has not been informed about this activity in advance and it is a violation of the rules of public safety in Kosovo,“ the Kosovo Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hajrulla Ceku, said last night.

Ceku’s reaction is the first official reaction of the Kosovo authorities to yesterday’s Saint Patron’s Day celebration at the unfinished church of Christ the Savior in Pristina, although it is not the last.

Students from Pristina also reacted last night. They announced a protest on Friday starting at 11 am due to the events that took place in the church yesterday, the Kosovo media reported last night.

„We invite you to participate in witnessing the activities of the Student Parliament of the University of Prishtina ‘Hasan Prishtina’, which will be held as a reaction against the religious activity/ritual that was held in an illegal building within the university premises. The event will be held tomorrow, June 11th, 2021 at 11 am in front of the building of the Serbian Orthodox Church,“ the announcement reads, Pristina-based Zeri reports.

For the first time in 23 years, Bishop Teodosije and several believers and priests marked the great Christian holiday of the Salvation in this church yesterday.

Kosovan officials, however, interpreted the move as a „provocation“.

While recalling that the University of Pristina sued the Serbian Orthodox Church for the alleged usurpation of land where the cathedral is built, and without mentioning the SOC’s counter-lawsuit, Ceku further underlined:

„For that reason, no party that is part of the court proceedings dares to put pressure on the courts. We call for such situations not to happen again and for stakeholders in this court case to refrain from direct or violent pressure on judicial institutions.“

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, who is known to the Serb public for sending letters to Europa Nostra and UNESCO, objecting to the decision to label Visoki Decani as an endangered and Serbian monument.

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 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.

Commenting on yesterday’s ceremony in the church in Pristina, Hoxhaj underlined that „this liturgy is at least religious“, while also arguing that „everything related to it is political, aimed only at distorting history, the truth and justifying a genocidal regime like Milosevic’s“.

“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 head of the parliamentary group of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, Abelard Tahiri, also commented on yesterday’s liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior, criticizing the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti.

Tahiri wrote on Facebook that „Kurti’s government found the key to the church that was built illegally and which symbolizes the terror of Slobodan Milosevic.“

„Before sitting down at the negotiating table with Vucic, the Prime Minister made sure to give him a ‘gift’ in order to improve his mood, and tomorrow he will certainly talk to us about principles and similar things at the session,“ Tahiri wrote.

Rron Gjinovci, a civil society activist from Pristina, also reacted. In a Facebook post, Gjinovci stated that if the Kosovan government knew about and allowed the liturgy to be held – “it must now prepare a long explanation.”

“Although I don’t know what kind of justification it can give,” he stressed.

A former close adviser to Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who fell out of favor with the public and Kurti when he spoke publicly about possible crimes by the Albanian side, Shkelzen Gashi, now stressed that Kosovo must avoid falling into the trap of having a repeat of March 17th by reacting to this „provocation“ of 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“.

Church „financed by criminal Arkan“

„The Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo, according to Ahtisaari’s package, is an integral part of the Serbian Orthodox Church with its headquarters in Belgrade. In 2008, members of the Kosovo Assembly voted in favor of Ahtisaari’s package, including all members of today’s political parties – the PDK, LDK and AAK. Unfortunately, the church located on the campus of the University of Pristina, illegally built during the occupying regime of the Serbian leadership with the criminal Milo Sevic, which was paid for by the criminal Arkan, is part of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo,“ he said.

 

„Ahtisaari’s package, voted by the PDK, LDK and AAK, says Kosovo cannot prevent priests and other members of the Orthodox Church from entering and remaining in Kosovo. In addition, according to this package, the properties of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo are untouchable and cannot be the subject of expropriation,“ Gashi explained.

He, however, stressed that Kosovo should avoid falling for the „provocation“ of the SOC, aimed at „encouraging us to react as in March 2004, so that, having acquired the status of a protected area for Orthodox churches and monasteries, it could receive the status of extraterritoriality.“

„By serving the liturgy today in this cathedral, we testify who we are, who we were, and who we should be in the future. We testify that we will never give up our holy sites, that they belong to us, representing a pledge of our eternal life,” the Bishop of Raska and Prizren, Teodosije, who served the liturgy in the Church of Christ the Savior yesterday, emphasized.

Former Kosovo from the ranks of Srpska Lista, Dalibor Jevtic, also attended the liturgy.

According to Jevtic, the arrival of the Kosovo police on the spot is an “inappropriate response of the authorities” to Bishop Teodosije’s call for peace and coexistence.

Read more:

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

„Liturgy, prayer, call for peace and coexistence this morning in Pristina by Bishop Teodosije. No political statements by anyone. After the Easter ‘congratulations’, 0 vaccines for Serbs in Kosovo and the violation of the rights of Serbs, the government’s response – sending the police and an investigation around the Church of Christ the Savior,“ Jevtic tweeted.

The head of the Kosovo Office, Petar Petkovic, described the arrival of the Kosovo police at the location as „a brutal demonstration of force and religious intolerance coming from Pristina.“

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“.

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 yesterday 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.
„Jesus hates Serbs“

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 following yesterday’s liturgy.

 

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