Issue 7, Articles 30-31, 28 July 2000

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

The Churches of the Holy Prophet Elijah, St Paraskeva and St Nicholas were
all dynamited within six weeks of each other.

The Serbian Orthodox Church leaders in Kosovo and the chairman of the
Kosovo Helsinki Committee agree that KFOR and UNMIK need to investigate
the recent attacks on churches in Kosovo, but seem to disagree over who may
be responsible for the desecration and destruction. UNMIK told Keston that
though it had not been proven, they believed the �local population� was to

Friday 28 July 2000

by Branko Bjelajac and Felix Corley, Keston News Service

In mid-July another Serbian Orthodox church in Kosovo was reduced to rubble,
the latest in what appears to be a systematic campaign to destroy all Serbian
Orthodox religious sites in the disputed province which the Orthodox blame on
`Albanian extremists'. With more than 100 buildings either destroyed or badly
damaged in the year since the Kosovo Stabilisation Force (KFOR) and the
United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) took over the administration of
the province under the United Nations mandate, Serbian Orthodox
representatives have told Keston News Service that the international
administration is not doing enough to protect their places of worship. The
chairman of the Kosovo Helsinki Committee told Keston from Pristina that it
had not yet been proved that Albanians were behind the attacks and called on
KFOR and UNMIK to do more to investigate them and to prevent further such
attacks. However, an UNMIK spokeswoman rejected Albanian suggestions that
such destructions might be the work of agents of Belgrade and backed up
Serbian Orthodox claims that Albanians were to blame.

The Church of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Pomazatin, on the left bank of the
river Drenica, 12 kilometres west of Pristina, was dynamited in a powerful
explosion late on 16 July. The church - built in 1937 and partially destroyed by
the Balli units (Albanian fascists) in 1941 - was rebuilt in 1965 and served as a
parish church until several years ago, when it became partially inactive. On 3
August 1999, after the deployment of substantial British KFOR units in the
vicinity of the church, attackers used a hand grenade to destroy the entrance,
just one day after the liturgy was held in the church to commemorate St Elijah's
Day. `Despite this damage the church could be easily repaired and the Diocese
requested KFOR to secure the church from further destruction,' the Diocese of
Raska and Prizren declared in a statement. `KFOR only surrounded the church
with barbed wire and from time to time patrols would pass by.'

The former parish priest of Pomazatin, RADIVOJE PANIC, visited the ruined
church in the wake of the attack. `He called us and reported that the Albanian
extremists used 30 kilograms of explosive to completely destroy it. There is
only a pile of stones left. A very sad picture, very said,' SRDJAN
JABLANOVIC, head of the Raska and Prizren diocesan office in Belgrade told
Keston. `I used to go to visit this church when I lived in Kosovo to report on
the damage carried out by Albanian extremists in the early 1990s - broken roof,
damaged door, damaged candlesticks, etc. I believe that KFOR is now trying to
make some sort of excuse by saying that the church building was not in use.'
Jablanovic pointed out that there is a `great concentration' of KFOR soldiers in
the area, since the church is close to Slatina airport and a major coal mine, and
lies right next to the Pristina to Pec railway. `If this church could not be
protected, do any have a better chance? The [KFOR] barracks are only a
hundred meters away.'

The Pomazatin church was the third in six weeks to be dynamited after earlier
damage by burning or looting. On 29 June attackers used dynamite to destroy
St Paraskeva church in Podgorce village, in the municipality of Kosovska
Vitina. This church - which had been built in the 1990s and consecrated in
1996 - had been seriously damaged in August last year, but this time was
completely destroyed. After theSerbs left the village in June 1999, the church
was not in use. The first attack last year was perpetrated after looting of its
movable treasure and desecration of the altar and the whole building, and then
it was set on fire. The Serbian National Council issued a strong protest to
KFOR and to the UNMIK authorities. Representatives went to Camp
Bondsteel, the US military base in Kosovo, and protested to the US general in
command. On 1 July KFOR spokesman Captain RUSSELL BERG announced
that two people had been detained in connection with this blast.

At the end of May the Church of St Nicholas in Srbinje village near Gracanica
Monastery was attacked for the third time in ten months and finally destroyed
in a dynamite explosion. Finnish Colonel ARTO RATY told the press: `If a
church has value as a historical place then clearly it should be guarded, but if it
has no historical value and there is no chance of the Serbs returning anytime
soon in the area, then it should be gently dismantled.' But Hieromonk SAVA of
the Decani Monastery commented to Reuters on this occasion: `Probably 95
per cent of Kosovo cultural heritage sites are Orthodox buildings. These need
saving not just for the Serbs, but for all Europeans.'

In the early hours of 22 June, at least six mortar grenades landed in the vicinity
of the Decani monastery church (see separate KNS article).

Keston has sought the views of KFOR, UNMIK, the Kosovo Helsinki
Committee as well as Serbian Orthodox representatives in Kosovo (see article
below). (END)

Friday 28 July 2000

The Serbian Orthodox Church leaders in Kosovo and the chairman of the
Kosovo Helsinki Committee agree that KFOR and UNMIK need to investigate
the recent attacks on churches in Kosovo, but seem to disagree over who may
be responsible for the desecration and destruction. UNMIK told Keston that
though it had not been proven, they believed the �local population� was to

The Serbian Orthodox Church has condemned the latest attacks on the
churches of the Holy Prophet Elijah in Pomazatin, of St Paraskeva in Podgorce
and of St Nicholas in Srbinje (see separate KNS article 28 July 2000) and has
requested an investigation from KFOR and UNMIK. `There are very few
reasons to believe that the perpetrators would ever be arrested because so far
not a single attacker on nearly 90 destroyed Serbian churches has been
identified or arrested,' the diocesan statement concludes.

Despite Serbian Orthodox allegations that the rash of church destructions are
the work of `Albanian extremists', GAZMEND PULA, the chairman of the
Kosovo Helsinki Committee (a member of the Vienna-based International
Helsinki Federation), told Keston by telephone from Pristina on 27 July that
there was so far no proof of the identity of those responsible for the attacks. `It
is not clarified that it is the Albanians who are blowing up churches,' Pula
declared. `I can imagine given the genocide that took place by the Serbian
regime during the war that there would be some revenge actions from
Albanians who suffered. Or it might be agents of the Belgrade regime staging
these attacks to prove that the Serbs are not being protected by the international
forces.' Pula insists that these attacks must be investigated by the `legitimate
authorities'. `These are for the time being KFOR and the UNMIK police who
have been legally mandated by the United Nations.' He believes that despite
their `major efforts to normalise the situation and bring law and order', KFOR
and UNMIK are not doing enough to improve the general security situation
and, in particular, to protect Serbian Orthodox churches. `Their role should be
more energetic and vigorous.'

SUSAN MANWELL, the acting spokeswoman for UNMIK, admitted that it is
not proven who has been leading the campaign of destruction. But asked who
UNMIK believed was to blame she declared: `the local population'. Asked if
she meant the Albanians, she responded categorically: `Definitely.' She told
Keston from Pristina on 27 July that the suggestion that agents of the Belgrade
regime were behind the dynamitings was a `theory promoted by Kosovar
Albanians', but one UNMIK had not found substantiated. `We have never
caught any agents of Belgrade,' she told Keston, referring not just to the church
attacks but to general attacks. `I am not saying such agents are not here, but
they are not who we think are destroying churches.' Manwell stressed that
UNMIK police are investigating these incidents `when they can' and pointed
out the extent of KFOR's deployment to protect such churches. `Tanks are
posted outside churches and whole companies are assigned there,' she told
Keston. `You see them every time you drive past a church.' Both churches that
are still functioning and those no longer in use are being protected, she
stressed. Manwell confirmed that UNMIK accepted the figures for destroyed
churches given by Hieromonk Sava. `We regard him as a credible source,' she
declared. `He is the moral conscience.'

The Serbian Orthodox Church has long been concerned at the attacks on its
churches in Kosovo, regarding them as part of a wider campaign to expel the
remaining Serbs from the province. In May the Church published a book
`Crucified Kosovo' with a list of 80 churches, monasteries and other religious
sites destroyed between June and October 1999. In his address to the United
Nations Security Council in New York on 9 June, Bishop ARTEMIJE of Raska
and Prizren demanded `an end to the politics of blatant ethnic discrimination
which leads to legalisation of ethnic cleansing, lawlessness, and to new
conflicts in the Balkans,' pointing out that the international community `has
taken upon itself the obligation to protect the citizens of Kosovo'. Among his
seven demands was the protection of Serbian Orthodox holy sites and the
establishment of `religious and cultural equality' in Kosovo.

In addition to the attacks on its churches, the Serbian Orthodox are concerned
about attacks on burial processions and the desecration of Serbian graveyards.
Also causing anger were attempts by British KFOR soldiers to conduct a body
search on the leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch PAVLE, on 27
June when he and his entourage were stopped at the Merdare checkpoint. The
patriarch was en route for the commemoration at Kosovo Polje of the 1389
battle in which the Serbs were defeated by the Turks, during which he was to
serve the liturgy. When another bishop intervened to try to prevent the
patriarch being searched, he was reportedly subjected to swearing by a British
soldier. The patriarch was not searched in the end. (END)

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