The Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church with this appeal addresses all participants of the drama in the northern region of Kosovo and Metohija, with the warm prayer to God, the only Source of true peace, unity and love among peoples and nations, that they not allow this drama to be turned into a tragedy.
To the members of KFOR we assert that the Church expects and asks of them that they act in a spirit of neutrality, exclusively in the service of maintaining peace, that is, that they not act as the “striking fist” of NATO or those powerful Western countries who recognized the phantom “state of Kosovo” and advocate for its “territorial integrity”, while the territorial integrity of Serbia, the international legal order and UN Resolution 1244,they see as last year’s snow, but that they act on behalf of the international community.
We note that the idea of an international community is not synonymous or a euphemism for the United States or the West in general but that in it belong also Russia, China and all the other countries who, in spite of pressure, have not recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed “state of Kosovo”, and among them are, by no concidense, the most populous and very influential countries of the Islamic world.
We also appeal to the members of KFOR that they refrain from the violent removal of the barricades in the areas of administrative crossings, and especially from the use of force towards the Serbian civilian population. We note that at the barricades and in their vicinity thirty people (Dudis Krs) were wounded or injured a few days ago, and also some hundred, then again some sixty (Jagnjenica), and since July 26 to this day the sad total of wounded and injured Serbian civilians is six hundred and fifty-eight people. While seven Serbs on September 27, at the crossing in Jarinje were wounded by firearms. Such behavior of the international forces only feeds the maximilism and insatiable appetiates of arbanaski extremists, and can serve as a motive or excuse of extremist individuals or whatever irresponsible group on the Serbian side to use force. Whatever human victim on either side, whoever may have provoked it, would be a sin and crime, a tragedy and shame for all, a defeat and a collapse of the dialogue and the peace loving efforts which is the only true alternative to our present state and strategy of resolving this crisis thus far.
To the President of the Serbia and the Serbian Government we assert that the Church expects and asks that they not abandon the people of Old Serbia – as it was called throughout Europe down the centuries, until the time of Josip Broz Tito – because of the chimeras known as the status of candidate country for membership in the European Union. Since, for the accountable state power and political elites of Serbia, Serbia and the Serbian people as a whole have no alternative, and all else, even the idealized and mythological European Union, has an alternative. Joining the European Union is a good desire and thought, justified by geopolitical, economical and civilized reasons, but if it means renouncing Kosovo and Metohija – whether immediately or “crawling”, it’s all the same – it represents a price with which we have to pay for membership into this league, which has already been hit with a deep crisis and is threatened with dissolution, then we must openly and honorably withdraw our candidacy and seek other models for a future in a multipolar world which is already a reality.
Would such a perspective bring more or less harm either to the governing coalition or the opposition at the upcoming elections is absolutely irrevelent and pointless when one takes into account one’s self-consciousness and the dignity of our people, the integrity of Serbia, at least within the borders incurred illegitimately, in revolutionary decisions from times of communist dictatorship, sealed with the tragic events during the past years, and – last but not least – preserving the Christian presence and the Serbian Orthodox sacred and cultural inheritance in Kosovo and Metohija, as well as the survival of the Serbian people who have been living there at least a millenium and a half, while in no way challenging the rights of the Albanian people and other ethnic communities to coexist with them in full freedom and equality.
We consider that, just as our fellow Serbs who live north of the Ibra River should not come to decisions without recognizing the legal and democratically elected central government in Belgrade, at the same token the government sholdn’t come to decisions – or to “in step” change their political tactics – without recognizing the vital needs and positions of the Serbs in northern Kosovo and the entire region of Kosovo and Metohija, for whom this issue is not one of party-political calculations but, literally, a question of to be or not to be. Furthermore, we consider that the Serbian government and their negotiating team cannot place the trust of Kosovo-Metohija Serbs to new tests, which includes those at the barricades: sufficient indication of the rocky confidence people have in them is the fact that tens of thousands of them sought protection, and what’s more, citizenship from Russia.
It is important, but not sufficient, that the highest representatives of our country repeat that they will never recognize the independence of Kosovo and Metohija. It is crucial that Serbia be actively present in Kosovo and Metohija wherever and however long that is possible and do everything to prevent the project of the factual conversion of the administrative lines seperating interstate borders, at which the Pristina factors are feverishly working on with the tactit support of their sponsors.
To our faithful, the Serbs in northern Kosovo, we assert that they be persistent just as they have been thus far (only they know how it is for them, not only during the days and nights at the barricades during these cold winter days but also in their homes and everywhere else), but they also be wise, inspired by the Christians principles and the vows of their honorable ancestors. They must not allow anyone to provoke them and to accept violence as a method of action. Their protests are not, after all, an expression of spite, play or whim but precisely their determination to not accept the dictates of power and forcible imposition of a status. These protests must not escalate into a rejection of negotiations, dialogue and the efforts taken peacefully to come to the former state which was destroyed by the unilateral actions of the Albanians and the KFOR which is not in accordance with the UN mandates. In their actions they shouldn’t only think of themselves but also their brothes and sisters who, under much more difficult conditions, live in enclaves south of the Ibra, as well as those many countrymen driven out of the homes of their great grandfathers, and of whose “human rights”, particularly their right to return and lead a safe life in their homelands, know is mentioning any longer.
Having all of this in mind, we call upon sincere humanists and sincere believers – not only those in the Christian world but in the Islamic world as well – that they be advocates for peace and justice for everything without exceptions, for freedom and the dignity of all everywhere. If it is genuine and consistent it will be beneficial for all, especially and equally it will be valuable for both Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija.
From the Office of the Synod of Bishops
Bishop Irinej of Backa
Spokesman for the Serbian Orthodox Church