Banjska, Kosovo, September 29, 2023
The Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raška and Prizren is not interested in the patronage of Kosovo authorities after armed men stormed a monastery earlier this week.
A group of about 30 heavily armed men stormed Banjska Monastery Kosovo: Dozens of armed men storm Orthodox monastery after killing police officerA group of about 30 heavily armed men stormed a Serbian Orthodox monastery in Kosovo in an armored vehicle yesterday morning after opening fire on the police.
“>on Monday, causing the brotherhood and pilgrims to lock themselves inside the monastery church for safety. Though the group eventually left, and no one at the monastery was harmed, the situation in Kosovo remains tense.
According to a new statement from the Diocese of Raška and Prizren, Kosovo institutions and the Ministry of Culture, headed by Mr. Hajrulla Çeku, proposed that the Ministry assess and repair the damage caused to the monastery during the incident.
However due to the continual abuse and persecution of the Church and the Orthodox people in Kosovo by Çeku and other authorities, the diocese is uninterested in the “interference of Kosovo institutions in the life of our Church and the assumption of protection of Bansjka Monastery.”
Read the full statement below:
In light of the initiative by Kosovo institutions and the Minister of Culture of Kosovo, Mr. Hajrulla Çeku, for the Ministry to assess and repair the damage at Banjska Monastery caused during recent armed conflicts, the Eparchy of Raška and Prizren has adopted the following stance:
We believe it is essential to repair the damage, and our Diocese has been working for years with the help of local and international benefactors to restore and protect our holy sites, including Banjska Monastery, a significant legacy of Saint King Stefan Milutin from the 14th century.
We are deeply disappointed by Minister Çeku’s public statements on Twitter, where he again refused to acknowledge the proper name of our Church and failed to identify it as a monastery of the Serbian Orthodox Church, where regular services are held, a monastic brotherhood resides, and many worshippers come for prayer. This approach not only appropriates the cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church and denies its identity but also indicates a preference for the monastery’s early Christian history over its current status as a living monastery, revealing the real attitude of Kosovo institutions towards our cultural heritage.
Banjska Monastery is not just a cultural and historical monument cared for by our Church and the state for years but, above all, a holy site of the Serbian Orthodox Church, crucial for the spiritual life of our faithful, especially in northern Kosovo. Mr. Çeku’s statement refers to an early Christian church, overlooking Banjska’s status since the 14th century as one of the most important sanctuaries of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the burial church of St. King Milutin, significantly restored in recent years.
Our Diocese has been facing continuous denial of the church’s spiritual and religious identity in Kosovo and Metohija for years, with the aforementioned minister leading this trend. These same institutions are denying the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija basic religious rights, evident in the non-execution of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo’s ruling on the land of Visoki Dečani Monastery, not registered in the municipal cadastral records for seven years, despite persistent appeals from international representatives and esteemed international organizations dealing with religious rights and cultural heritage protection.
The Kosovo institutions consistently deny our Church access to several of our religious sites, preventing our clergy and faithful from entering, contrary to both international standards on religious freedoms and Kosovo’s own laws, which these institutions should uphold foremost. These institutions are currently also adopting laws intending to revoke some of the last rights remaining to the Serbian Orthodox Church from the so-called Ahtisaari Plan, despite these being internationally guaranteed rights.
In this unacceptable situation, our Diocese is not able to accept the interference of Kosovo institutions in the life of our Church and the assumption of protection of Banjska Monastery. We primarily see this initiative as a political act aimed not only at placing the religious and cultural heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo and Metohija under the political control of Kosovo institutions but also as a step towards further degradation of our basic religious freedoms and rights and the cultural appropriation of our churches and monasteries.
The Diocese of Raška and Prizren is capable of engaging independent experts to assess the incurred damage, to restore what has been damaged with our own resources and the contributions of our benefactors, as has been the case with other churches and monasteries damaged or nearly destroyed by K/Albanian extremists over the past two decades.
Follow OrthoChristian on Twitter, Vkontakte, Telegram, WhatsApp, MeWe, and Gab!