Holy Archangels' Monastery near Prizren, Serbia

"You showed me the church of Yours as the source of health", Dusan's gift charter. -Full reconstruction was interrupted... -In June 1999 a monk from the monastery, Fr. Chariton, was abducted. -Now - a spiritual center gathering the remaining Orthodox people from Prizren and around. The young monastic brotherhood is full of religious enthusiasm and remains confident that one day Holy Archangels will be completely reconstructed.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In Kosovo and Metohija, Suffering of Eastern Orthodox Serbs Continues

Author: His Eminence Metropolitan Josif (Bulgarian Orthodox Church)

An official delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) that is visiting the United States had a meeting with the representatives of The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) in New York City on March 21, 2006. SCOBA’s guests from the Serbian Orthodox Church were His Eminence Bishop Jovan of the Diocese of Sumadija (Central Serbia) and His Eminence Bishop Teodosije of the Decani Monastery (Diocese of Raska and Prizren, Kosovo & Metohija), together with hieromonk Fr. Irinej Dobrijevic who is in charge of the SOC’s Holy Synod’s Committee for Kosovo and Metohija. The testimonies by these three representatives of the Serbian Orthodox Church about the recent and ongoing events, and especially the suffering of the Eastern Orthodox Christian inhabitants of the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija, were deeply moving. Most of us, their American hosts, were brought to the verge of tears while listening to the accounts of terrible sufferings of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its faithful in Kosovo and Metohija.

With warmth as well as a deep Christian concern for their faithful in Kosovo and Metohija, our guests from the Serbian Orthodox Church testified about the troubles and suffering in Kosovo and Metohija, and asked us for our moral support and especially for our prayers on their behalf. With truly bleeding hearts they told us about the ongoing systematic destruction of the Eastern Orthodox churches and monasteries, as well as about the continued vandalizing and destruction of the Orthodox Christian cemeteries throughout the province of Kosovo and Metohija. The statistics about these gruesome incidents speak for themselves:

250,000 Orthodox Christian Serb residents of Kosovo and Metohija still cannot safely return to their homes in the province;
140 Eastern Orthodox Christian churches have been destroyed throughout Kosovo and Metohija [since the summer of 1999];
some 40 monasteries have been dynamited;
some 70 Orthodox Christian cemeteries have been vandalized, severely damaged, and/or destroyed;
[as an example of ``freedom of movement’’ in today’s Kosovo, the guests told us that] the monks of the Decani Monastery in western Kosovo & Metohija can safely go out of the monastery property to get the drinking water only if accompanied by the armed peacekeepers from KFOR.

It should be stressed that The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church, in cooperation with the Serbian government, is trying to do everything within its power to make American and other Western leaders (as well as the general public) more aware of what has been going on in Kosovo and Metohija. These efforts to alert the world to the situation in the southern Serbian province were one of the primary reasons for sending an official delegation of SOC to Washington, DC, as well as to the United Nations’ headquarter in New York City. With the blessing from His Holiness, [Serbian] Patriarch Pavle, the delegation informed both the political leaders in Washington, DC and New York City, and us in SCOBA about the ongoing suffering of the Serbian Orthodox Christian people in Kosovo and Metohija. [His Eminence] Archbishop Dimitry from the Greek Archdiocese [of North America], [His Eminence] Metropolitan German from The Orthodox Church of America (OCA), and Yours Humbly did our best to provide the spiritual comfort to our brothers in Christ from the Serbian Orthodox Church. We told them, that their unjust suffering is not in vain, but serves the higher purpose of defending the Holy Orthodoxy that, as we are all well aware, is experiencing rather testing times.

We also encouraged our brothers and promised them that at the next general assembly of SCOBA we shall carefully consider the Serbian Orthodox Church’s ten-point document* [about the ongoing negotiations on the final political status of Kosovo and Metohija]. His Eminence Archbishop Dimitry [of the Greek Orthodox Church] will ask President Bush for concrete measures regarding Kosovo and Metohija when he meets with him in early April for the occasion of celebrating Holy Annunciation and Greek Independence Day. In my humble opinion, concrete assistance by the US government and its allies is quite realistic and feasible in a number of domains, including:

- stabilizing the volatile political situation in the province;
- allowing all refugees and people expelled from Kosovo and Metohija [over the past
seven years] to safely return to their homes;
- providing security guarantees and protection of life, liberty and property of all
inhabitants of the province;
- guaranteeing human rights of all inhabitants of the province;
- securing religious freedom, including the right to safely worship, for all inhabitants;
- protecting the right to normal life and freedom of movement throughout the province;
- reconstruction and rebuilding of all destroyed Orthodox Christian churches,
monasteries, and graveyards throughout Kosovo and Metohija;
- introducing laws that would explicitly protect all historical monuments and places of
worship throughout Kosovo and Metohija.

At the end of the meeting with our guests from the Serbian Orthodox Church, we prayed to the Lord Almighty to bless the province of Kosovo and Metohija which, after greatly suffering from war and destruction, now truly needs peace, reconciliation, mutual tolerance and understanding, as well as spiritual, economic, and every other form of recovery.

Josif [Joseph], Metropolitan of America and Australia [Bulgarian Orthodox Church]

*We need to point out that the Serbian National Committee (SNC) of Kosovo & Metohija, which includes His Eminence Bishop Artemije of the Diocese of Raska and Prizren, opposes this ten-point document on the grounds that the document unintentionally and implicitly supports what the SNC refers to as “The Jihad Republic of Kosovo”. We quote SNC’s public announcement on March 4, 2006: “Serbian National Committee is deeply worried about the positions presented in the document `The Basic Principles of The Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church Regarding the Upcoming Negotiations on the Future Status of Kosovo and Metohija’, which was recently made public. This document was accepted with a great deal of approval by the so-called International Crisis Group (ICG), which in its report from February 17, 2006, titled “The Challenges of Transition”, openly supports the concept of an independent Kosovo. The Serbian National Committee firmly believes that the primary problem to be addressed in the upcoming negotiations is the status of the Kosovo Albanians, as an ethnic minority in Republic of Serbia, and not the status of the Kosovo Serbs in the province of Kosovo and Metohija, which is an integral part of Serbia. The ethnic Albanians already enjoy individual, ethnic and religious freedoms regardless of what part of Serbia they reside in, as well as a considerable self-rule in Kosovo and Metohija. However, by framing the problem of the final status of Kosovo and Metohija chiefly as the problem of minority rights for the Kosovo Serbs, we would implicitly accept that Kosovo is de facto separate from Serbia, and that all that the Serbian negotiation team and the Serbian government can do in the negotiation process is to represent interests of and offer some limited protection to its citizens who live in a foreign country.”


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