The Serbian Orthodox Bishops in America expressed their concern today over serious incidents in Kosovo and Metohija during the past week, including attacks on clergy and innocent children, and threats to church property and cultural heritage, in a letter to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
In the letter, the Bishops stated:
“As the Serbian Orthodox Bishops in the United States, we are writing to call your attention to four serious incidents that occurred this past weekend and into this week, which demonstrate, once again, the disdain of the Kosovo Albanian authorities for the religious freedom and human rights of Orthodox Christians in Kosovo.
“• On Orthodox Memorial Saturday, May 26th, 2018 the Kosovo Albanian authorities in the municipality of Decani, acting in violation of their own laws and obligations, entered the internationally-mandated Special Protective Zone of the Decani Monastery with heavy machinery in order to begin construction of a road, a project that has long been opposed by US and Western officials because it is illegal.
“• Then, on Orthodox Pentecost, Monday, May 28th, a group of internally displaced Serbs who had gathered at the Church of the Holy Trinity in the village of Petric to celebrate their patronal feast day were surrounded by a mob of Kosovo Albanians who hurled projectiles into the gathering of worshippers and shouted insults in order to prevent their religious assembly and force them away from their ancestral town. Three people were hurt in the violence, including one with serious injuries. The purported aim of the attack on the Serbian worshippers, according to one of the leaders, was to send a message that Serbs forced from their homes in 1999 are no longer welcome in their own village.
“• On Wednesday, May 30th, in the village of Staro Gacko, a Serbian mother, her 6- month old baby, and another child with pepper sprayed by Kosovo police.
“• Today, on Thursday, May 31st, the Reverend Fr. Stevan Markovic, his wife and twin 5- year old children were attacked by a group of Albanians in Zac, while returning from services at the Patriarchate of Pec. Their vehicle was surrounded and the windshield was shattered, while one of the attackers called for a rifle.
“In all of these incidents, it was only after the intervention of international officials that the Kosovo Albanian authorities desisted from further escalation, essentially demonstrating the validity of the conclusion of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church which stated just two weeks ago:
“We have never had a greater obligation than now to make the argument, in every place and in all circumstances, that the society being built in Kosovo and Metohija is not one of a people with equal rights and freedoms, rather a society that is, in every respect, contrary to the basic values on which democratic societies rest. Kosovo Albanian institutions, since the end of the war in 1999, and especially since the declaration of so-called independence in 2008, have shown, clearly and openly, that they desire to create an ethnically pure Albanian state in this area, one in which there is no place for Serbs, or for other non-Albanians. The obvious violation of the human rights of Serbs and the massive expulsions following the end of the war; stopping the process of returning expelled Serbs; preventing the return of usurped property; and disregarding the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church, does not give hope that the position of the Church and the people could be improved in some “independent Kosovo”. This, regardless of whatever or whosoever guarantees the same, as the current Kosovo authorities do not respect even their own laws.
“Just the other morning, Mr. Ambassador, we heard you and Secretary of State Pompeo underscore in clear and unequivocal terms the Administration’s unwavering commitment to advancing religious freedom as a fundamental human right around the globe. We hope that we will be able to work with you to assure that the Serbian Orthodox Christians in Kosovo, after nineteen years of repression and persecution, can finally expect to exercise their rights and freedoms as well.”
The letter to Ambassador Brownback was signed by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America, His Grace Bishop Maxim of Western America, and His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America.