24 March 2007

Serbian Patriarch calls on Serbs to remain in Kosovo



Belgrade, 5 Jan. (AKI) - In a message released ahead of the Orthodox Christmas on Sunday, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, has called on Kosovo Serbs not to leave the province - most of whose mostly Muslim Albanian majority demands independence - and to "hold out to the end." Pavle also spoke out against abortion in his Christmas message.


"The day will come when the tyrants will be ashamed. We pray for our enemies to realise that doing evil things can bring good to no one," the patriarch said. "They should be aware that after all the humiliating defeats they impose on others, they will ultimately defeat themselves by hopelessness," he warned.


Pavle said the Orthodox Christma was an appropriate occasion to remember that victory is in forgiveness, keeping the faith and in doing good deeds. "Orthodox Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija (the Serbian name for the province), like all persecuted peoples, know it well," he said.


The patriarch also warned in his message that annual deaths in Serbia exceed births by 25,000 and called on Serbs to refrain from abortion, calling it "sin and child murder, motivated by the selfishness of unworthy parents."


Over 200,000 Serbs and other non-Albanians have fled Kosovo since it was put under United Nations control in 1999, and ethnic Albanians currently outnumber Serbs by 17 to one. Belgrade opposes independence, fearing that the remaining 100,000 Serbs would be forced to flee the province if it were to break away from Serbia. The chief United Nations negotiator for Kosovo, Martti Ahtisaari, is expected to unveil his proposals for Kosovo's future status later this month, soon after parliamentary elections in Serbia set for 21 January .


Before World War II, Kosovo's population was split in half between ethnic Albanians and Serbs, and the current population imbalance is ascribed to a continuing exodus of Serbs from the province and very low birth rate compared with the ethnic Albanian population - which has the highest rate in Europe.