Minister for Human and Minority Rights of Montenegro publicly brought defamatory facts to cover discriminatory acts against the Serbian Orthodox Church.
January 18, 2019 – On 6 January 2019, on the Christmas Eve, the Montenegrin minister for human and minority rights, Mr Mehmed Zenka, gave an interview to the Montenegrin TV “Vijesti”, and stated that the Serbian Orthodox Church (“the SOC”) “was not ready to cooperate” with the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights (“the Ministry”) in preparation of the Draft Law on Freedom of Religion. A month before he gave an interview to the news agency “Anadolia” and stated that “simply, the SOC in Montenegro acts the way it wants, without any control” and “frequently in an anti-state manner” (1 December 2018). He brought similar facts in his interview to the daily newspaper “Dan”, on 15 January 2019.
In response to these untrue statements, the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral (“the Metropolitanate”) issued the official communique in which it stated that “minister consciously and daringly deceived public few times, because the ministry he runs, since the end of 2016, never sent an invitation, neither to the Metropolitanate nor to any other diocese of their church in Montenegro, for participation in preparation of the Draft Law on Freedom of Religion”. To avoid any doubts, the Metropolitanate publicly invited the minister to provide a proof that an invitation was sent to it, and that it rejected it.
“On the contrary, the Metropolitanate and other diocese of the SOC in Montenegro, publicly and for many years, and also in direct meetings with the minister’s predecessor Mr Suad Numanović, asked to delegate their representatives for the working group, in the same manner and in the same scope as all other actors [had already done]. On the other hand, even three years after the public debate on the Draft Law on Freedom of Religion was finished, the Metropolitanate did not receive a single response to their objections and suggestions, which were submitted to the Ministry in a timely manner.”, the Metropolitanate further submitted.
The Metropolitanate submitted that minister publicly brought brutal lies instead of stopping to act discriminatorily against the Orthodox Church in Montenegro, and invited him to act in a civilized manner and impartially, showing respect for human rights of all, including the priesthood, monks and nuns, and faithful of the canonical church in Montenegro. The only truth was that minister never asked for a reception or a meeting with Metropolitan or representatives of Metropolitanate for any reason, including the draft of the new law.
In conclusion of its statement the Metropolitanate repeated that they were not against, but in favour of creation of the new law which would regulate freedom of religion in Montenegro, in accordance with international conventions and Montenegrin Constitution, with broad and inclusive participation of the Ministry, Government, legal experts, and representatives of the church and other religious communities. Finally, the Metropolitanate invited the Government of Montenegro to conclude an encompassing agreement with the SOC in Montenegro, with the same rights and obligations as it agreed upon with other religious communities in Montenegro.