Serbian Foreign Affairs Minister Ivica Dacic said in a Ministerial Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington that members of the Serbian people, Church and Christian cultural and historic heritage in Kosovo and Metohija are the victims of a nationalistic ideology to create a homogeneous ethnic, cultural and religious area, RTS reports.
He added that almost all the elements of the survival of the Serb community in Kosovo are endangered. “Since June 1999 in particular almost all the elements of the survival of the Serb community are endangered – people, material and nonmaterial cultural heritage, churches and monasteries, along with destruction and other sorts of devastation of religious, cultural and historic traces of Slavic and Orthodox presence, including verbal and physical attacks, and even murders of the members of the Serbian Orthodox Church,” Dacic said.
Out of four religious sites of extraordinary importance placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List – Pec Patriarchate, Visoki Decani Monastery, Gracanica Monastery and Church of Holly Mother of Ljevis, three of them remained since they were under full physical protection of NATO forces during the times of organized waves of ethnic pogroms, Dacic underlined.
“The state of the right to religion of the Serbian population under these circumstances directly depends upon the area where the religious sites are located,” Dacic said. According to him, this tragic situation in addition to ethnic, has systematic causes as well.
“One must realize that the sites of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija are not museums or monuments, they are part of the concept of a living church, that is always available and at the service to the believers, priesthood and monkshood. Same, visits of the displaced Serbian population to their churches and monasteries should not be considered as a pilgrimage. These are not visits by the foreigners, but by believers who are coming to pray, light a candle, visit the graves of their forefathers and beloved ones,” Dacic said.
He noted that the latest State Department report on religious freedoms in Kosovo and Metohija confirmed the violation of the rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church and its believers.
“Due to above mentioned and in order to advance the religious freedoms in the province it is necessary to change approach and give up on double standards, negating, minimizing and relativizing continuous discrimination by majority community and its institution, something that should be followed by systematic efforts to revive the right so the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija can freely and unobstructed practice their religion,” Dacic underlined.