30 March 2007

Lead roof stolen from newly reconstructed Orthodox church in Pristina stolen


Attack on the renewed church of St. Nicholas in Pristina

View of the south part of the narthex of St. Nicholas Church. The lead covering was stolen from the apsid (right) and from a part of the side cupola (middle)

KIM Info Service, Pristina, January 16, 2007

Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan and members of the Council of Europe's Committee for renewal of churches in Kosovo and Metohija visited the newly restored church of St. Nicholas in Pristina today after the Committee  was informed that a part of the lead roof was missing above the apsid and the side cupola. According to information obtained by the Committee, the thieves fled the scene yesterday when they were caught in the act by a Kosovo Police Service patrol arriving in front of the church after a neighbor called them. The thieves left their tools and a part of the lead roof they had already removed behind them. It is assumed that if the police patrol had not appeared, a much bigger part of the lead roof would have been taken from the church. In addition to the theft of the roof several windows on the church were also broken.

Thieves have stolen the lead covering from the apsid above the south part of the narthex of the church of St. Nicholas in Pristina

"Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the fact that attacks on Christian holy shrines are still occurring," said Bishop Teodosije. He added that he has requested that members of the Committee and relevant authorities place security guards in front of Orthodox churches that are currently being or have already been renewed to prevent the theft and destruction of church property.

"We have insisted several times during the past year on the protection of our holy shrines in locations where there are presently none of our faithful, especially after the theft of the lead covering from the church of Bogorodica Ljevisa (Holy Virgin of Ljevis) Cathedral and St. George Runovic Church in Prizren; however, nothing has yet been done," underscored Bishop Teodosije.

"If relevant institutions are unable to provide necessary protection for Christian religious sites, we must seriously ask the question whether it will be possible to begin the process of restoring our holy shrines at all. Nevertheless, this most recent act will not stop us. As long as our holy shrines and homes are being destroyed, we will continue to restore them because that is the only way we have of demonstrating that there must be room and freedom for Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija," said Bishop Teodosije.

Bishop Teodosije has also informed the regional hierarch, Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, of the most recent desecration of the church of St. Nicholas in Pristina, and he has also most strongly condemned this attack.

The church of St. Nicholas is one of 30 religious buildings of the Serbian Orthodox Church destroyed in the course of the March 2004 pogrom. In accordance with the program of Committee for the restoration of holy shrines in fall 2006 the church was restored together with the baptismal chamber, bell tower and priest's home. Following completion of major construction work, further work on the interior appointment of the church and auxiliary buildings had been planned during the course of 2007. The church of St. Nicholas remains without any form of protection. Since its torching in 2004 the church has been the target of thieves on several occasions, and what remained of it was stolen.

Remnants of March 2004 violence. Two desecrated tombs in the small Orthodox Christian cemetery near the church of St. Nicholas in Pristina

Under strong international pressure illegally constructed buildings near Visoki Decani Monastery are being removed

KIM Info Service, January 16, 2007

More than a month after illegally constructed buildings were raised near Visoki Decani Monastery and under strong international pressure, a decision was finally issued for the removal of the buildings. On Saturday, January 13, members of the Kosovo Protection Corps dismantled one of the three buildings built by Naim Kuchi near the monastery.

According to information the monastery received today from Pristina, an executive order signed by Joachim Ruecker was sent today to the municipality of Decani for the removal of the two additional buildings, thus ensuring complete adherence to an April 2005 Executive decision establishing a protected zone around the monastery. It is expected that all the buildings will be removed in the near future. The monastery received a visit yesterday from one of the deputies of the UNMIK chief, Ms. Patricia Waring, who then also met with the mayor of the municipality of Decani, Nazmi Selmanaj.

"It is quite encouraging that the decision of the UNMIK chief will finally be respected. However, the very fact that it took more than a month to do so and that there was serious obstruction at the local municipal level shows how difficult it is to secure effective protection for the Serbian Orthodox patrimony in Kosovo and Metohija as long as local institutions are behaving irresponsibly," said Protosingel Sava Janjic, deputy abbot of Visoki Decani Monastery.

"So far all institutions, starting with the municipality, have not been up to the task. Ultimately it turned out that the decision of the UNMIK chief can only be implemented with strong political pressure from the U.S. and German offices (in Pristina), which have made significant efforts to ensure that the procedure on the protected zone around the monastery is honored. It remains to be seen whether the remaining two smaller buildings will also be removed," said Fr. Sava.

"This was not just an example of illegal construction but a test of how far local institutions and the international community are prepared to go to ensure institutional protection for the Serbian spiritual and cultural heritage, which is to be separately regulated according to the plan of Martti Ahtisaari."

"We are seriously concerned about how such a complex plan of decentralization, Serb self-administration and protection will be implemented," added Fr. Sava, "under conditions in which local institutions are working in the shadows of informal power centers, clan structures and a tribe mentality where constant pressure by international diplomatic and military circles is necessary to ensure implementation of the law. Thus, this case of illegal construction near Visoki Decani Monastery gives a very clear picture of the essential lack of readiness by Kosovo institutions to take on the building of a modern and democratic society resting on the rule of justice and law, and of the fact that Serbs need much fore than formal guarantees of protection," concluded Fr. Sava.