Izvor KoSSev, 13. septembra 2020.
The Diocese of Raska and Prizren reacted late last night to the article entitled „Appropriation of medieval Arberian monuments in Kosovo by Serbs„, which was published by Pristina-based Koha Ditore on Saturday. The Diocese alleged that this text „openly spreads ethnic and religious hatred“ towards Serbs in Kosovo and their cultural and spiritual heritage. They also underlined that the author of the text, history professor Bedri Muhadri used „open propaganda“, while also failing to utilize international historical sources.
In a text published by Koha Ditore, the author, Bedri Muhadri claims that in the Middle Ages the Nemanjic dynasty „usurped“ or restored Roman Catholic churches such as St. Petka, the Church of the Holy Savior, St. Nicholas Church in Koris, Velika Hoca, Musutiste and others, as well as the Monastery of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.
The author also stated that the religious buildings of the Serbian Orthodox Church, such as Decani, Gracanica, the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, the Church of Our Lady of Ljevis in Prizren, the Pec Patriarchate, the Church of St. Stefan (cf. St. Sava) in Mitrovica, are „as ancient to the autochthonous Arbras (cf. Albanians,)“ as well as to the Serbs who „occupied Kosovo.“
The Diocese noted that this „pseudo-historical claim of Muhadri“ is not a novelty as it has been continuously presented, especially in the last few decades, by several Kosovo Albanian authors.
„Although neither Muhadri nor any other historian from Kosovo can explain why Albanian extremists so ruthlessly destroyed appropriated churches and monasteries, demolishing crosses, digging out Christian graves, desecrating crucifixes and icons, if they are so proud of the Christian tradition“, the Diocese stressed.
They recalled that this attitude towards Serbian Christian holy sites did not take place during the tragic civil wars during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, adding that buildings of all faiths were destroyed at that time – and in the presence of NATO forces.
The Diocese said that they witnessed „unparalleled vandalism committed since the end of the conflict in 1999 and the following years.“
The Diocese said that in addition to „ethnic cleansing of 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians from 1999 onwards, there is now an increasingly active denial and cleansing of the cultural identity of the Serbian people and the SOC – in plain sight of the international community.“
Disrespect of Ahtisaari, religious freedom, and identity
Such behavior of Kosovo extremists and many politicians, the Diocese added, was the main reason why the 2008 plan of Martti Ahtisaari included an annex dedicated to the protection of Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo.
These sites are also unanimously recognized as the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church by the international community, the Diocese emphasized.
„Although some of Ahtisaari’s principles were included in Kosovo law, they are largely disregarded and targeted by hate speech regularly hurled by several Kosovo media outlets, under the authorship of local historians and experts“.
The Diocese also mentioned the recent agreement signed in Washington between the delegations of Belgrade and Pristina – one of the points of which focuses on the protection of religious buildings and the implementation of court decisions related to the SOC.
They say that this topic was part of the agreement precisely due to the disrespect of Kosovo’s laws and court decisions.
„Unfortunately, with such texts, we conclude that Mr. Muhadri, as well as the sponsors of this culturicide, are not pleased with either the EU or the US with their principles of religious freedom and respect for all traditions, because Kosovo is openly advocating denial of the identity of Serbian Orthodox churches,“ the statement said.
„It is especially wrong that the Roman Catholic Church in Kosovo is being instrumentalized, contrary to the clear position of the Vatican, although the apostolic nuncio in charge of Kosovo, Archbishop Jean Marie Speich, conveyed a clear message to Pope Francis last year – following a letter sent from the Patriarchate in Belgrade on the topic of the exploitation of the remains of the Orthodox temple in Novo Brdo – that Kosovo Roman Catholics will not participate in such a policy that endangers the relations of Christians in Europe and peace among the peoples of Kosovo“.
In their view, the author of the text is one of the „spokespersons of the idea that has been openly circulated for years and in all spheres of Kosovo society.“
The Diocese warned that such historical content is also taught to the younger generations, while also alerting that an attempt is being made to present historical falsehoods as the truth.
„Although each of our frescoes, icons, manuscripts, and numerous documents, testimonies of international travel writers and historians, Turkish firmans and other historical documents clearly and unequivocally say that these holy sites were built by Serbian Orthodox rulers of the Nemanjic family and that they are Orthodox places of worship with centuries of continuity. The very historical seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church is in the Pec Patriarchate, with the graves of our archbishops and patriarchs,“ they said.
According to them, the goal of this is to „completely erase every trace of Serbian existence that can be seen here at every step through the centuries.“
„The message is clear. The SOC should move out of Kosovo with its clergy and people and ‘liberate’ its centuries-old holy sites that should become Albanian monuments,“ the Diocese of Raska and Prizren said in a statement last night.
According to the Diocese, the authors in question see the SOC holy sites as „the biggest obstacle to the realization of the idea of an ethnically pure Albanian Kosovo.“
They estimate that texts, such as the one published in the Koha Ditore newspaper, do not contribute at all to building a democratic society of equal citizens and the rights of all, but more clearly indicate the need for additional long-term protection of SOC shrines regardless of the course and outcome of political dialogue.
„Any well-meaning and intelligent reader can easily see who Mr. Muhadri and the newspaper Koha did a favor to with this text, and who it had offended. The old Latins would say – Sapienti sat,“ they pointed out.
It is meaningless to start a discussion on this issue, the monks believe, – „just as meaningless as proving that the earth is round to those who believe that it is flat.“
„Our holy sites are Serbian Orthodox and it will remain as such as long as the last monk, nun, lives here, as long as the priests and believers of our Church are here“, reads the message.
The Diocese had always been in favor of reconciliation, Albanians to recall good examples from history
The Diocese of Raska and Prizren said that they always supported the position that churches in Kosovo should be a place visited by people of goodwill of all faiths and nations and seen as places of reconciliation. They also recalled that the monastery Visoki Decani protected 200 Albanian refugees, numerous exiled Serb families, Roma, and one Gorani family.
We would honestly like for Kosovo Albanians to recall the good examples from their history when their honorable tribal leaders knew how to protect Decani and the Patriarchate from aggressors, often without even sparing their own lives. Not to follow the examples of „heroes“ from the previous twenty years who shot grenades at Decani, wrote Islamist graffiti, and threatened monks in various ways
They stressed that the Diocese of Raska and Prizren has always been actively focused on building peace and dialogue. To young Kosovo Albanians, the Docese conveys the message that the future must be built on tolerance, getting to know, and respecting others.
Protection of religious buildings to be placed on the agenda in Brussels
The Diocese of Raska and Prizren still requested the religious buildings in Kosovo to be protected, both physically and from the „increasingly aggressive institutional pressures and lawlessness of the Kosovo institutions, and especially from hate speech spread through certain Kosovo media.“
That is why they sent another request for the issue of protection of religious buildings of the SOC in Kosovo to be part of the Brussels dialogue.
„Regardless of the course of talks and political solutions, the SOC shrines should be provided with a special type of protection from such and similar malicious attacks, which endanger security, basic religious freedom, rights and identity of our church and people in this area where we have lived for centuries,“ they said.
They said that „history cannot be erased by political decrees,“ underlining that we do not live in the time of Enver Hoxha’s communist Albania, but in the 21st century.