The Serbian Orthodox Church about the safety of Christian cultural heritage in the “State of Kosovo”

September 14, 2015. The Serbian Orthodox Church addressed a letter to Mrs. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, as the official website of the Serbian Orthodox Church reports. The Holy Synod of Bishops expresses its profound concern about the eventual acceptance of recent self-proclaimed Government of Kosovo as a member of UNESCO.

Since the end of the civil war in Kosovo and Metohija in June 1999 and deployment of the NATO led international peacekeeping forces (KFOR) together with the UN Mission and Police, 107 Orthodox Christian Sites in Kosovo have been either completely destroyed or damaged. The devastation of the Serbian Christian Orthodox heritage in the post-war period is unprecedented in recent European history. It had a systematic character as explosions destroyed dozens of the holy sites and in a way that strongly suggests premediated intention and strategy. Together with other post-war crimes in which hundreds of Serbs and other civilians suffered or were abducted, the destruction of Serbian heritage has never been properly investigated nor has anyone ever been brought to justice for this and other post-war crimes, which seriously undermines Serbian confidence in Kosovo institutions.

After the first post-war wave of destruction of the Christian heritage, the massive Kosovo Albanian riots in March 2004 left in ruins an additional 34 Serbian Orthodox sites. One of the seriously damaged sites was the 14th century Cathedral of Bogorodica Ljeviška in Prizren (a UNESCO World Heritage site). It is also important to mention that another site under UNESCO protection in Kosovo, the 14th century Monastery of Visoki Dečani suffered four armed attacks since the end of the civil war in 1999, which makes it the most frequently attacked Christian site in Kosovo and Metohija.

The Holy Synod of the Serbian Bishops underscores that Kosovo authorities focus mainly on wartime damage on Islamic heritage, minimizing and almost completely ignoring the damage, which was inflicted on Christian Orthodox heritage during and after the war. Statements by Kosovo leaders have often been ambiguous and politically coloured on this issue, which could easily be interpreted by extremists as a carte blanche for attacks on Serbian churches in the atmosphere of alleged Serbian collective guilt, which is spread even today by Kosovo media. There is also a systematic post-war destruction of at least 392 Serbian Orthodox cemeteries in Kosovo and Metohija, which have been documented by OSCE.

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