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Satanic Panic in Serbia

Staying with Serbia:

Police believes Danijel Jakupek, suspected of committing a double murder in Novi Banovci, had planned the crime.

Interior Ministry (MUP) Chief Inspector Zoran Lukoviæ, who is in charge of the investigation, says that the crime might have been a part of a ritual.

The headless bodies of a man and his five-year-old nephew had been recovered from the Danube; according to Lukovic

“The murders were not committed for the sake of the murder, rather they are typical of a cult-inspired ritual. Everything we found in the suspect’s house points to that conclusion,” Lukoviæ said.

“What we could see from the literature we found there and judging by the manner he organized his living space, we could say that satanism and witchcraft were at work there, the philosophy leading to auto-aggression or acts of aggression towards someone else,” he explained.

Locals failed to notice anything odd about Jakupek because

…people in Serbia “are usually poorly informed of cults and sects.”

Lukovic, in contrast, is an expert, and his book Sects—Handbook for Self-Defense is used in a police academy. Not everyone, however, is impressed. In 2005 it was reported that

The Belgrade Youth Initiative for Human Rights announced that it has pressed criminal charges against Zoran Lukovic, a member of the Belgrade criminal police, for inciting racial, religious and ethnic hatred. In the charge, the YIHR shows that in his books and public speeches, Lukovic has referred to several smaller churches as sects and to their followers as manipulators, mentally ill, alcoholics and drug addicts who will end up in psychiatric institutions or the cemetery. The YIHR is demanding an investigation of Lukovic’s book…

Forum 18 also notes that

July 2003 – Police Captain and self proclaimed sect expert Zoran Lukovic published, in the Novi Sad daily newspaper Dnevnik, a series of articles where he portrayed many religious communities in Serbia in pejorative terms. (Dnevnik 20-31. July 2003).

Unsurprisingly, Lukovic reportedly has links with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), and he writes for its periodical Pravoslavlje. This site has some background:

Pravoslavlje, a periodical published by the SOC…proposes passing of a “law on the Church” instead of a law on the freedom of religion…Numerous churches and religious communities, mostly Protestant, are considered religious sects or cults. Intense intolerance, even unveiled aggression towards these “cults” persists. “Serbian people are subject to systematic and planned evil, as has been justly observed by Bishop Nikolaj: this is a spiritual genocide committed by numerous cults – Protestant, satanic and those coming from the Far East,” says Pravoslavlje. A fear that a Western conspiracy might commit a spiritual genocide of the Serbian people is being spread via this periodical, fear of genocide to be carried out by religious cults. “There is a plan to systematically cover the whole area of Serbia and Montenegro with a net of cults.”

That last sentence is apparently a quote by Lukovic. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia has further extracts:

Zoran Lukovic, a police captain and a contributor to Pravoslavlje, defines a sect in the following way: “A sect is any social group that, regardless of its way of registration, its form of organization and the number of members, treacherously abuses knowledge, ignorance or a situation of weakness of individuals, resulting in physical or psychological consequences for the individual. This means that sects take advantage of someone’s ignorance, illness, weakness, loneliness, old age, youth, etc.” The definition of sects is very wide and is often applied to other groups that the ruling circles disfavor. For example, in 2002, a graffiti saying “Sectarians, get out of Serbia” appeared on the door of the Helsinki committee. Among others, sects include (national or international) groups that perform “experiments on the brain, genetic engineering, human organs trading, prostitution, human, arms and drugs trafficking, and in these times work on the human psyche”. Captain Lukovic sees the solution to the problem of sects in “defining the criminal act of disturbing public order, but qualified for a religious object, prescribing sentences for unqualified doctors and mental manipulation. A law should be passed on religious communities and civic associations, because all thes einformal groups are sects if they perform sectarian work.

A somewhat obscure group called the “European Watch against Religious Cleansing” (EWARC) has made further allegations against Lukovic and a neuropsychiatrist named Bratislav Petrovic; however, I have not been able to find any confirmation from other sources for their claims.

(Incidentally, just because I am sceptical of much “anti-cult” rhetoric, it doesn’t therefore follow that certain groups are not a cause for concern. This 1996 paper, by Benjamin Beit-Hallami, raises the problem of academics who have been too quick to abandon a critical perspective.)

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)