Kosovo and Metohija : DECANI – The gates of the Visoki Decani monastery near the Kosovo town of Pec are closed for the first time in 13 years on account of threats from local officials and extremists, and access to the monastery has been blocked by police and KFOR troops, including Italian carabinieri.
According to a release issued by the Serbian Orthodox Church Diocese of Raska-Prizren, due to threats from Decani municipal leadership and from groups which have been protesting in the town against the monastery for days, and in particular their intention to hold Friday’s protest in front of the monastery itself, head of the monastery archimandrite Sava Janjic decided to close its gates to all visitors.
He told Tanjug that things are peaceful at the moment, but that the monastery’s doors will remain closed until further notice because the situation is very serious.
He added that this kind of behavior shows that in Kosovo, the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of terror.
According to the release, Visoki Decani has been exposed to demonstrations, highly insulting messages and open threats after the Supreme Court of Kosovo upheld the monastery’s property rights.
This kind of behavior, which is directly opposed to the rule of law, is an open security threat and we cannot allow threats in the immediate vicinity of this holy place, which is on UNESCO’s world heritage list and which has been the target of four previous armed attacks carried out by the same people mounting this campaign today, reads the release.
The protestors intend to put up posters with offensive content, such as “This is our monastery – hands off our land.”
At earlier demonstrations, they held up signs saying Decani is not a Serb but an Albanian monastery, and that the monks occupied it by force.
“Considering all this, we are seeing a rule of terror in this municipality from which they are now trying to drive the last remaining Serbs – the monks, because all other Serbs were driven from Decani right after the war,” says the release, adding that these actions are accompanied by a huge campaign by Kosovo media which are spreading the most amazing lies designed to incite ethnic and religious hatred.
The head of the monastery has also informed foreign representatives in Pristina, OSCE and EULEX that the monastery is unable to function normally and that the municipality of Decani is not only breaking the law but openly working to ethnically cleanse the area.
“We sincerely regret this behavior on part of the municipal authorities which have been mounting a media and political campaign from day one, using pressures and threats to overturn the ruling of the Kosovo Supreme Court and take away half of the monastery’s property,” archimandrite Sava said in the release.
He said the local government wants to seize the monastery’s land and privatize it for a profit, but the whole affair is being presented as a fight for the liberation “of an Albanian monastery from the monks who occupied it.”
According to the release, the Kosovo government has pledged to the international community that it will ensure the religious and legal freedom of all religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church, whose holy sites will have special protection.
Visoki Decani was built in the XIV century by Serbian King Stefan Decanski and his son, Emperor Dusan. Since KFOR’s arrival to the province in 1999, the monastery has been attacked several times – three times with mortar bombs and once with a man-portable missile. Only one person has been convicted for the attacks.
In 2004, UNESCO listed the monastery on the World Heritage List, citing its frescoes as “one of the most valued examples of the so-called Palaeologan renaissance in Byzantine painting” and “a valuable record of the life in the 14th century”.
In 2006, it was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger due to the potential for attacks by ethnic-Albanians; it is protected by the United Nations’ KFOR…
Source : Tanjug