KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 12 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
KOSOVO: CHAPEL BLOWN UP, TOMBSTONES DAMAGED. The
Serbian Orthodox chapel in the village graveyard at Staro Gracko (Gracke
e Vjeter), 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of the Kosovo capital Pristina,
was destroyed on 8 November by three dynamite explosions, Keston
News Service has learned. Tombstones within a radius of 30 metres (100
feet) were also damaged. The NATO-led peacekeeping force KFOR
reported that no-one was injured in the attack and that an investigation
has begun. This was the third incident in a week affecting Orthodox sites
KOSOVO: CHAPEL BLOWN UP, TOMBSTONES DAMAGED
by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service
Bishop Artemije (Radosavljevic) of Raska and Prizren has condemned
the latest attack on a Serbian Orthodox religious site in Kosovo, the
destruction of the chapel in the graveyard in the village of Staro Gracko
(Gracke e Vjeter), near the town of Lipljan, 30 kilometres (20 miles)
south of the Kosovo capital Pristina. "The small chapel is perhaps of no
particular cultural or material value," he told Keston News Service on 9
November in Belgrade, "except that it is as precious to us as any of the
110 religious buildings and sites destroyed in Kosovo since the
international forces arrived [in June 1999]."
The chapel was destroyed in the evening of 8 November by three
dynamite explosions, which also caused damage to nearby tombstones
within a radius of 30 metres (100 feet). The NATO-led peacekeeping
force KFOR reported that no-one was injured in the attack and that an
investigation has begun.
"This destruction of a chapel and tombstones ought not to provoke the
Serbian population," Bishop Artemije added. "We are hurt by any
destruction and we grieve because of it, but we should not be frightened."
He described the attack as an attempt by "Albanian terrorists" to
discourage the Serbs from participating in the Kosovo-wide elections due
on 17 November, but he urged all Kosovo's Serbs to take part as he
believed it was in their interest to do so.
"Explosive devices were set at the chapel's wall and three explosions were
heard," Radio Gracanica reported on 9 November. "The intensity of the
blast was such that many tombstones nearby were destroyed or severely
damaged. The local population is frightened that this might herald the
beginning of attacks by Albanian extremists. Last year there was an
attempt to destroy the chapel, but only the gate to the yard was damaged."
KFOR troops investigated the site. "Three explosions were heard in the
area of the graveyard at Gracke e Vjeter/Staro Gracko at approximately
1910 last night," reported a KFOR statement issued on 9 November in
Pristina. "A KFOR patrol was dispatched to investigate. After calling for
additional lighting, it became apparent that an explosive device had been
set against the chapel causing serious damage to the building. No-one was
injured in the attack and an investigation into this incident has begun."
The chapel destruction was the third incident related to religious life in
Kosovo in a week. On 3 November, observing the Orthodox day of the
dead, a hundred Serbs visited the Orthodox graveyard in Pristina,
protected by an equal number of KFOR soldiers, only to discover that the
majority of the graves had been destroyed, damaged or desecrated.
On 6 November officials of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo,
UNMIK, prevented local Serbs from continuing to build an Orthodox
church in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica, a city divided between
the Serbian-populated north and the Albanian-populated south, fearing a
possible rise in tension ten days before the elections. (END)