Issue 9, Articles 6-7, 11 September 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.



SUMMARY: Amid renewed attacks on Serbian Orthodox religious sites in Kosovo - churches and
cemeteries - the Serbian Orthodox diocese has alleged that troops of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
serving under KFOR command have abetted the destruction, the second such allegation. Keston is
awaiting responses to these charges from KFOR and the UAE Defence Ministry.


by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Between 14 and 22 August, three Serbian Orthodox churches were levelled in Kosovo, despite being
under KFOR protection. The Serbian Orthodox Church will include these latest attacks in the third
edition of its full colour booklet �Crucified Kosovo�, detailing the desecration and destruction of
almost 100 churches, monasteries and religious buildings in Kosovo since June 1999.

The local Serbian Orthodox diocese has alleged that in one of the three destructions, troops from the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) serving with the international force KFOR allowed the destruction to
take place - the second such allegation of UAE collusion in church attacks. Both Major SCOTT
SLATEN, spokesman for KFOR, and Lt. Col. SALIM AL-SOOBUSI, spokesman for the UAE
Defence Ministry in Dubai, have promised to respond to Keston�s enquiry about the alleged role of
UAE troops in these church destructions. Keston is awaiting the responses.

Representatives of the international agencies administering the province under the United Nations
mandate have repeatedly condemned the attacks on Serbian Orthodox sites. SUSAN MANUEL,
spokeswoman for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told Keston on 9 September that
the destruction of Orthodox churches remains �a sickening aspect of life in today�s Kosovo�.

In the early hours of 18 August the Church of St Elijah in Vucitrn, central Kosovo, was dynamited.
When Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska and Prizren and his entourage tried to visit the site the following
day they were denied entrance to Vucitrn by UAE troops.

St Elijah�s was built in 1834 on the site of a pre-existing medieval Serbian Orthodox church and was
active until June 1999, when it was looted and vandalised by Albanian extremists in the presence of
French KFOR troops. At the time of its destruction the church was under the protection of KFOR
troops from the UAE. The Orthodox diocese strongly condemned the attack and requested that KFOR
conduct an immediate investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice. �From well-informed
sources, the Diocese of Raska and Prizren has learned that the church was �secured� by no fewer than
20 UAE troops who permitted Albanian terrorists to carry out an attack on the Church,� a statement
issued by the diocese and the Serbian National Council of Kosovo declared.

The statement alleged that there had also been collusion by UAE troops in the destruction of a church
in the nearby village of Banjska on 30 January 2000. �During the previous destruction of the church of
St Nicholas in Banjska,� the statement claimed, �the Diocese learned from well-informed sources that
the attack was coordinated with UAE troops, who withdrew at the decisive moment and permitted the
terrorists to destroy the church.�

After being turned away from Vucitrn, the delegation visited the village of Velika Reka where they
learned that the Church of Ss Peter and Paul, built in 1998, had been completely levelled a few days
earlier. �It is obvious that the church was professionally mined, and KFOR did not protect this church
despite numerous requests,� a further statement from the SNC declared. The church building had been
looted and then dynamited on 19 July 1999 despite the presence nearby of German KFOR troops. The
remaining walls and the bell tower were awaiting reconstruction when this latest attack occurred.

Also destroyed was the Church of the Holy Trinity in Velika Reka, which was levelled to the ground
on 19 August, the Orthodox feast of the Transfiguration. First attacked on 20 June 1999, it had been
attacked on five subsequent occasions before being levelled in August. Erected in 1995 with funds
donated by an individual Serb and consecrated by Patriarch PAVLE in 1996, the church served the
recently settled Serbian refugee community from Bosnia and Croatia. �It was supposed to serve as a
point of gathering to the refugees who have lost most of their possessions and loved ones in the
previous war,� SRDJAN JABLANOVIC, head of the diocesan office in Belgrade told Keston by
telephone from Soko Banja.

�Almost all the churches in the neighbourhood of Vucitrn, seven of them, are now levelled,�
Jablanovic noted sadly. (END)


by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Late on 1 September, unknown attackers damaged and desecrated the Church of St Nicholas at the
Orthodox cemetery in the village of Musnikovo, Sredacka Zupa, 10 miles south of Prizren. An
explosion caused by a hand grenade destroyed the church roof and damaged the interior of the
building, including a seventeenth-century icon of the Mother of God. It also damaged the wall of the
nearby cemetery. Since June hundreds of gravestones have been defaced or destroyed in other attacks
on Orthodox cemeteries.

The Musnikovo church is located in the German KFOR zone and KFOR troops immediately
investigated the incident. �A KFOR Task Force [Multinational Brigade South] Prizren patrol
responded to the scene,� a KFOR statement of 3 September reported, �and discovered that the wall of
the cemetery, the roof of the chapel and a picture of the holy Madonna had been damaged in the blast.
The investigation is still ongoing.�

The Church of St Nicholas was built and decorated in the second half of the sixteenth century, with
several icons dating back to the seventeenth century. The parish priest Father ILIJA SMIGIC visited
the site on 5 September to assess the damage and to report to the diocese. �The diocese most strongly
condemns this barbarian terrorist attack,� the diocese declared in a statement, �which once again
confirms that Albanian extremism in Kosovo is increasingly openly anti-Christian by nature.�

The Serbian National Council believes this attack to be tied to the plans of 58 Serbs to return to their
homes in Musnikovo after spending a year as refugees. �The group of Serbs visited their houses under
the protection of KFOR only ten days ago. They are planning to return to their village soon,� SRDJAN
JABLANOVIC, head of the diocesan office in Belgrade, told Keston on 6 September. �We strongly
believe that this attack and others like it are aimed at discouraging the Serbian population from
returning to their homes. Whenever Albanian extremists see individual returnees or groups of people
planning to return they try to discourage them. Recently we had so many attacks on churches and
also on children at the playground, on cemeteries and such like.�

In its statement on the Musnikovo cemetery attack, the diocese noted with concern that attacks on
Serbian cemeteries have recently become �commonplace�. �The Orthodox clergy in Pec, Decani and
Prizren are constantly sending in information that Albanians are pouring rubbish and waste from the
cities into Orthodox cemeteries or destroying and desecrating them by demolishing gravestones and
crosses marking the graves.�

In addition to the three churches demolished in August (see separate KNS article) and the cemetery
chapel damaged in September, gravestones in two locations have been desecrated recently. The
Belgrade-based news agency Beta reported on 14 August that 120 Serbs under KFOR protection
visited a graveyard in the southern part of Kosovska Mitrovica for the first time since June. They
found approximately 500 gravestones destroyed or desecrated, a sharp increase since June when 200
gravestones were damaged mainly by removing the lettering from individual inscriptions. The Serbian
Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren strongly condemned yet another attack. �To date the Church
and the [Serbian National] Council have received a multitude of information, especially from
Metohija, regarding the systematic destruction and desecration of graves. In many locations our
cemeteries are filled with great quantities of rubbish,� a statement complained.

On 22 August, the Belgrade daily Glas javnosti reported that a Serbian Orthodox graveyard in the
village of Gornji Livoc near Gnjilane had been looted and burned. Many of the gravestones were
damaged, engravings erased or carved out, and several family graves looted. The nearby KFOR troops
managed to save the small chapel that the Serbs had been building over the last five years with hopes
to open it as a church one day.

In early September Bishop ARTEMIJE of the Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Raska and Prizren
and President of the Serbian National Council in Kosovo renewed his criticism of the attackers. �The
aim of the Albanian extremists is not only the biological extinction of Serbs in Kosovo or their exile
from their centuries-old homes, but to cut their spiritual roots in the desire to wipe out every trace of
our existence in Kosovo,� he claimed in a statement given to Keston on 6 September in Belgrade.
�This lies behind the church and cemetery destructions. However, we hope that, if God permits, and
the Serbian church continues to work, we will remain in Kosovo.� (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.