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Jailing of Serb Paramilitaries Recalls Church Role

Four Serbian paramilitaries have been jailed following the discovery of a video of a massacre:

The four Serbs found guilty Tuesday were seen in a video that surfaced in June 2005 when it was shown at the war crimes trial of Milosevic before the U.N. tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

…But the footage, widely broadcast in Serbia as well as in Bosnia, shocked some Serbians who were in denial about the wartime atrocities committed by the Serb forces.

When the video first came to light, there was some controversy over the involvement of a Serbian Orthodox priest, who blessed the paramilitaries. A report by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights seems to have the most detail about this in English:

…That video recording amply indicates ties between the Serb Interior Ministry and Srebrenica massacre, and also presence of the Serb Orthodox Church and its support to those fighters. Namily the ininitial scene [sic] is the one in which Father Gavrilo, head of monastery Privina Glava, around 8 o’clock in the morning blesses the Skorpioni group with the following words: “Brothers, we are facing a revival of Turkish belligerence, they want Serb sacred places. Please help your faithful army to prevail over our enemies.” After the airing of the video recording, Monk Gavrilo stated: “I don’t repent for blessing members of the paramilitary unit Skorpioni, for I did not bless the crime they have committed.” He went on to note: “I blessed our people and our flag to make it known that the Orthodox faith is equal to a Christ-loving, justice-loving and calm-loving practice, and to prevent any confusion or veering towards the evil in their minds.” In his mind “the crime was committed probably because they lost control or because they grew very embittered. But even the foregoing does not justify that crime. But at the same time we should not forget even worse crimes committed against the Serb children.

Sociologist of religion Mirko Djordjevic was unimpressed, as reported here:

…”The silence of the Serbian Orthodox Church on the case of Father Gavrilo doesn’t surprise me, there was a precedent in a similar incident in the recent past. You will remember Father Filaret who, in 1995, was photographed on a tank and, far from being reprimanded, he was promoted,” said Djordjevic. It is worth noting also, that the Serbian Orthodox Church supported Milosevic’s War in Kosovo[Kosova] as well. The head of the Serbian Church,Patriarch Pavle, praised Milosevic during the war as well as issuing statements in support of the Armies action in Kosova[Kosovo].

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.

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