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US Evangelists Back Serbian Orthodox Bishop against Independent Kosovo

Interfax reports on a bishop’s campaign against independence for Kosovo:

An independent Kosovo would lead to an irreparable tragedy for all of Europe, Bishop Artemije of Ras-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija has said.

The bishop clearly knows which buttons to press:

Since the moment the KFOR contingent arrived in Kosovo, over 150 Orthodox churches and monasteries there have been destroyed. In the same period, over 400 mosques have been built in that territory with financial support from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries, he said.

Artemije was speaking in Moscow following his latest tour of the USA (he has been a frequent visitor for several years), where he had delivered a speech along similar lines at a conference organized by the American Council for Kosovo, Christian Solidarity International, and Religious Freedom Coalition:

America’s leadership must ask itself if it really wants a new rogue “state” led by jihad terrorists and criminals. Kosovo’s current so-called “prime minister” [Agim Ceku] is a man who bears command responsibility for the murders by KLA terrorists of 669 Serbs and 18 members of other ethnic groups…The jihad in Kosovo was launched in 1995 at a meeting in Tirana, Albania between Osama Bin Laden and two leaders of the KLA.

…This Islamic movement within Kosovo is responsible for an intifada against Christians, which has resulted in 220,000 Serbs and non-Albanians being forced to leave Kosovo since 1999…

The clever use of the word “intifada” no would no doubt help to bring the anti-Palestinian right on board. Artemjie received strong backing from Rick Santorum, who sent a letter of greeting:

I commend you for your mission to Washington with a much-needed reminder that the defense of freedom, like the global terror movement itself, is indivisible. In Kosovo, no less than in the United States or the Middle East, the reality of Islamic fascist violence must be called by its proper name and opposed in every way possible.

He also met with Pat Roberson and Jerry Falwell, as was reported a few days ago in the Financial Times:

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, outspoken and influential televangelists in the US, are joining forces with Serbia’s Christian Orthodox church to campaign against independence for the mainly Muslim province of Kosovo, according to the spiritual leader of the Serb minority there.

Bishop Artemije, the most senior Orthodox cleric in Kosovo, said the two Christian broadcasters had promised to alert their followers and exert their influence.

“They point out that they have friends at the highest level of government and will urge them to help us so that Kosovo remains in the borders of Serbia,” he said.

A fuller account of the meeting with Robertson is included on Artemjie’s diocesan website; it looks as though the two tried to outdo each other with inflammatory rhetoric:

In a very precise analysis of the situation, Bishop Artemije drew the attention of Pat Robertson to the fact that a growing number of representatives of American administration and public at large agree with this conclusion. The one remaining unassailable bastion is the State Department which is, at the same time, the chief architect of the US policy concerning Kosovo and Metohija. The Statement Department has retained Clinton’s approach to resolving the problem of Kosovo and Metohija, as well as Clinton’s neo-liberal personnel structure.

After hearing detailed descriptions of the destruction of Christian civilization and ethnic cleansing of the Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, concluding that that “Islam is a terrible curse, a scourge which has afflicted this world”, Pat Robertson exclaimed: “We unleashed this curse upon the world!”. He add that it was “absolutely scandalous that we should permit the establishment of an Islamic state in Kosovo and Metohija by robbing a sovereign state of part of its territory, with the aid of American money to boot.”

Artemije’s political background is discussed in a report from the International Crisis Group:

At the beginning of 1998…Bishop Artemije, who had succeeded [Patriarch] Pavle as the leading Orthodox religious figure in Kosovo and had previously been viewed as a hard-liner in the hierarchy, along with Amfilohije and Atanasije, assumed a more moderate posture. The background for this was growing anxiety that Milosevic’s adventurism would produce a disaster for the Serbs in Kosovo and for the Serb Orthodox Church’s stewardship over the monasteries and churches that constitute the physical representation of Serb collective memory.

After the end of the war, Artemije and Sava assumed the leadership of those Serbs who were willing to work with the international community in Kosovo… Artemije and Sava thus became prominently identified as proponents of reconciliation with the Kosovo Albanian population, above all to preserve a Serb civil presence in Kosovo.

…Artemije’s and Sava’s criticism of the actions of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo – even if belatedly and carefully hedged – has helped restore moral credibility to the Church. Their willingness to co-operate with the international community in Kosovo has opened a path for Serbs to continue to maintain a presence in Kosovo, should they choose to follow that example.

A 1997 article on Serb nationalism in Le Monde Diplomatique gives further details of Artemije’s opposition to Milosevic:

Mgr Artemije’s see of Prizren and Raska is a prestigious one. Prizren is in Kosovo, one of the original heartlands of Serbian nationhood. It also has an Albanian Catholic bishop, Mgr Mark Sopi, who has never had the slightest contact with his Orthodox opposite number.

…Mgr Artemije condemns “fifty years’ genocide of the Serbian people perpetrated by the Albanians and Muslims with the connivance of the Communists.” He expects nothing from the international community, which he considers “systematically anti-Serb”, or from Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Only the Church can save his people.

…In January of this year the Pan-Serbian National Church Convention adopted the Saint Sava Declaration, addressed to President Clinton, President Chirac and other world leaders, in which it claimed that the Serbian people of “Kosovo and Metohija”, described as “sacred Serb territory”, had for centuries been exposed to “systematic, aggressive, racist Albanisation that has shaken Serbian national existence to the root and threatens to destroy it for ever.” It castigated Mr Milosevic as the representative of an anti-democratic regime who had “forfeited the right to negotiate with anyone or take any decision whatever with regard to Kosovo and Metohija.”

…The discourse of these Serbian “Afrikaners” oscillates between denial of Belgrade’s right to interfere and the conviction that they themselves have a historic mission to defend the frontline of Serbian ethnicity. For them, the Dayton agreements were the logical conclusion of Mr Milosevic’s policy of betrayal…

However, there is no quote provided to prove that Artemije’s opposition to Milosevic was based on “Dayton”. In 2000, this opposition led to the bishop being targeted by Serb extremists:

Bishop Artemije is living in a state of siege after enraged Serbian radicals gathered at his monastery in Gracanica to demand his expulsion from the province.

…Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian Socialist Party and the Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj have long campaigned against Bishop Artemije. The ruling coalition in Belgrade perceives Artemije as an opposition political leader rather than a priest. Seselj has branded Artemije “the NATO bishop”.

But despite his meeting with Pat Robertson, he remains theologically a hardliner, as a 2004 speech shows:

The realization that not one local Orthodox Church has remained unblemished and unsullied by the ecumenical pestilence is a painful fact.

…More recently, nonetheless, the main champion of opposition and resistance toward ecumenism in the Serbian Orthodox Church has been and remains Sveti Knez Lazar [Holy Prince Lazarus], a magazine published by the Diocese of Raska and Prizren for the past 12 years.

…the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church was, is and will forever remain the Orthodox Church, and that outside it, there is no Church, and that without the Church and unity with the Church, there is no salvation.

In the 1997 article, he sneered particularly at Catholic ecumenism:

“Like John Paul II, you end up dancing the tango with the Dalai Lama”

On the other hand, in 2000 Artemije signed a declaration supporting human rights alongside the Kosovan Catholic and Muslim leaders.

Name vaiations: Metropolite Artemios, Artemije Radosavljevic.

3 Responses

  1. […] Brownback and Voinovich to oppose an independent Kosovo (along with Rick Santorum, as I blogged here). Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Serbian Orthodox Extremist Bishop on Hunger […]

  2. […] I blogged on more recent efforts by the Serbian Orthodox Church on behalf of Kosovo – which have involved contacts with US evangelists and Rick Santorum – here. […]

  3. Artemije’s role in having “Vladika” Nikolaj Velimirović “canonized” by the Serbian Orthodox Church in 2003 deserves to be better known, as Stephen Schwartz didn’t know about it when he wrote his report for the International Crisis Group.
    Though educated in Western universities, Nikolaj Velimirović was a traditional Balkan “Orthodox” antisemite and an admirer of Adolf Hitler, whom he compared to a “hero” and a “saint in a speech he made in 1935 “The Nationalism of saint Sava”, delivered in Belgrade during the “week of Orthodoxy”. http://www.helsinki.org.yu/doc/reports/eng/Studija-Kupres-eng.pdf

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