Came across a story by Philip Smucker, “An oasis of tolerance in final holy battleground”, subtitled “Christian monk dissents from religiously inspired violence”, Toronto Star, June 20, 1998, p. L18:
In time of peace, Muslim Albanians come from the surrounding hills to crawl with ailing children and elders beneauth the coffin of a Serbian Orthodox Christian saint. …The villagers believe that the bones of the [Decani] monastery’s founder, who died as a prisoner of his own ungrateful son King Dusan, have a mystical healing power…
Prior Sava [Janjik]…is an erudite and soft-spoken man of reason amid the barbarity of an ethnic war between Serbs and Albanians in southern Serbia that has left hundreds of civilians dead. His monastery is an oasis of tolerance that has survived Ottoman, Bulgarian and Fascist invaders in recent centuries…
The Orthodox monastery of Decani and scores of slightly less impressive monasteries in Kosovo are at the heart of a fallen, medieval kingdom that is still sacred to Serbs–even those who rarely take time to visit the holy sites or to attend church services.
The glory of the Serb kingdom that once stood as a shining bastion against Islamic invaders is long lost. In 1389, it was destroyed when a Serb-led Christian army was vanquished by the Turks in Kosovo, ushering in 500 years of Muslim Ottoman rule.
But the Serb nation’s memory of Kosovo’s past is what has helped Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic justify the brutality that the majority Albanians have seen used against them by police units for the last decade, say Western diplomats…
But while Milosevic has seen fit to call on his country’s religious beliefs to incite nationalism, he has refued to meet with Orthodox church leaders, including Prior Sava…
Despite the walls closing in on all sides at Decani, [Prior Sava Janjic] has somehow kept the faith. He glances down at the rug displaying a double-headed Byzantine eagle beneath the bones of King Stephen, symbols sacred to both Serbs and Albanians.
“The Albanians believe this (monastery) contains miracles and, of course, we believe the same thing,” he says. “All we want to do is remain a refuge for those in need.”
With the fighting escalating and the Decani area sealed off, that hope doesn’t seem likely.
Did a search on Prior Janjik and found this, from 2013, on the Balkan Insight website, within the subcategory of “Balkan Transitional Justice”:
Uncredited, February 11, 2013
The clergy of the Serbian Orthodox monastery of Visoki Decani in Kosovo have locked their gates, after protests in the town that continued for weeks moved in front of the entrance.
For the first time in 13 years, the clergy of the historic monastery locked the gates to visitors last Friday owing to security worries, following an escalation of local protests over a court decision on land.
In the controversial ruling, the supreme court in Pristina recently returned land to the monastery that was taken after the 1999 conflict between Kosovo Liberation Army fighters and Serbian government forces.
Archimandrite Sava Janjic, the Prior of Visoki Decani, told Balkan Insight that there was an ongoing campaign to drive the clergy from the monastery and make the last ethnic Serbs leave the area.
“After the protests started on December 10, KFOR [UN peacekeepers] promised not to let any protesters in front of the monastery. But they allowed some ten people to approach the entrance, followed by cameras,” Janjic told Balkan Insight.
KFOR however did not let them carry a banner that read: “This is our monastery. Hands off our land.”
The land in question was taken from the monastery after the Communist takeover of Yugoslavia in 1946.
It was given back under the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic in 1997. Since the Kosovo war ended, the land has remained disputed because two public companies are claiming ownership.
The Kosovo supreme court late last year dismissed the appeal of the companies that sought an annulment of the first-instance verdict in favour of the monastery.
EU officials and the US ambassador welcomed the ruling, but it angered people in Decani who have been gathering to protest against the decision since December 10.
The first protest, which drew more than 2,000 people, was attended by the president of the municipality as well as by members of the nationalist Vetevendosje (Self-Determination Movement), who vowed to continue the protests until the verdict was cancelled.
The monastery has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004.
Prior Janjic says the case shows that the local authorities in Decani refuse to obey Kosovo’s own laws.
“This is a huge embarrassment for Kosovo, and I am sorry the representatives of Kosovo government are not more active in resolving this issue,” he said.
Janjic recalled that the monastery had been attacked four times since the war ended, once by rocket fire.
“We cannot allow the monastery to be endangered again,” warned Janjic. “This is an attempt to evict the last remaining Serbs from Decani.”
Janjic said that neither he nor his clergy can currently leave the monastery, which is guarded by KFOR and EU police.
The Serbian Islamic Community organisation also issued a statement on Sunday calling for peace and reconciliation, “in accordance with the values that our religioun instructs”.
And then the comments:
Joseph • 3 years ago
Sava is an expert PR, all high international officials boast about having him as a “friend”. With the help of Belgrade he has lobbied the EU (“rule of law”) and the US to push the Supreme Court into supporting Milosevic’s land grab (which is scandalous: even if the Church had lost the case, it would have kept most of the land lawfully). Now the monastery suffers the consequences of an illegitimate decision and come up with this victimist discourse which only persons who ignore the context believe… and the story continues.
Florence • 3 years ago
In accordance to what one reads, slavic groups settlers of the Balkan peninsula should stop being greedy for foreign land.
JJ • 3 years ago
It’s obvious Janjic is right — K.Albanians don’t tolerate non-Albanians in their midst, as is proven by the almost daily attacks on their Serb neighbours. So, western troops will be there for years to come, because it doesn’t look like Serbs will leave their home turf and the West has a duty to protect them; Nato reaps what it has sown.
Ikke Stikke > JJ • 3 years ago
And that won’t change untill Serbs apologize for the 90s.Same goes for Serbs in Croatia and B&H.
Walter von Reichenau > Ikke Stikke • 3 years ago
Exactly, they tried to ethnically clean the whole albanian population from kosovo after decades of abuse. They don’t feel bad about it I know this personally interviewing hundreds of serbs. Sad thing is that If they could, they would do it all over again. Pretty scary
Loni PR > Walter von Reichenau • 3 years ago
There is one difference between Germany and Serbia. Germany doesn’t support the Nazis and Hitler. It`s illegal in Germany to be a nazi, you can be arrested for it, and when i talk to german people, they all hate what Hitler did, they don`t support him. If you go to serbia, you will see that not only they are not sorry for what Milosevich and their nation did, but they make statues of them, they make songs for them, and they have denied every accusation. But they do hate Milosevich, not because of what he did, but because he failed to make “Great Serbia” like he promised.
A Nonny Moose > Ikke Stikke • 3 years ago
The monks of Visoki Decani openly shielded Albanians in the 1999 conflict from Milosevic’s forces by providing them protection behind their walls. Nearly all the locals know this and the monks there have a good working relationship with them and the local authorities. The “protests” were little more than a dozen or so extremists from the Self Determination movement eager to make headlines. Not everything today is connected to the 1990s.
dc > A Nonny Moose • 3 years ago
The Albanians of Kosovo decided to form the “Self Determination” movement, or Vetëvendosje, *AFTER* gaining independence. Perhaps the most misguided political movement of the aftermath of the Balkan wars. Can they just be happy with their independence and just leave the Serbs alone and move on for once?
Ikke Stikke > A Nonny Moose • 3 years ago
I’m telling you that noone will have sympathy for anything Serbian because of your propaganda that is targeting the states and people arpund you.Payback is comming very soon.It’s up to Serbs which way will it go.
A Nonny Moose > Ikke Stikke • 3 years ago
And how is “payback” justified against people that don’t warrant it? Read the article you comment on and you’ll see the ruling was passed by EULEX working within the framework of the Ahtisaari Plan which guarantees protective zones and re-institutes previously confiscated land to the SPC, with Visoki Decani monastery being one of the most important recipients. I’m also not exactly sure what you mean by “noone” having and “sympathy” for anything Serbian because of some vague mention of “propaganda”. If you’re just anti-Serb, then you don’t have an argument worth contemplating. What are you implying? That the victims of the 1990s hold irrational grudges after twenty years? That all non-Serbs are too ignorant to differentiate actual perpetrators committing crimes from ordinary people simply being associated with a particular ethnicity? If it’s the first, narratives of innocent victimhood go out the window because aggression and hatred characterize non-Serbs more than you like it to be associated with Serbs. If it’s the latter, then they are no better than the criminals of the 1990s that targeted people simply on the basis of ethnicity. It makes your side as culpable as the Serbs and it makes the Serbs equally justified in claiming victimhood and eventual payback as well.
The 1990s are over. I know many on English language comment sections of Balkan news stories like to think otherwise because the posters are stuck in a time warp, but “payback”, which has unfortunately come over the past 10 years, has been resoundedly condemned by the international community, and by elites in Pristina due to the embarrassing nature it causes them.
achilles > A Nonny Moose • 3 years ago
You arguments are sensible and logical but have no impact on the Serb haters, because theirs is a dark world of lies and distortion. Best to ignore them altogether rather than give validation to their delusions.
achilles > Ikke Stikke • 3 years ago
You keep making veiled threats…how is it that you can still post on this site? I guess the editors must agree with you.
Also found out that Prior (now Archmandrite) Janjic has a Twitter account. What he was posting today:
Monument to war victims in Serb village of Gorazdevac after attack this morning. #Kosovo reality, no Gov’t reaction.