"Kosovo joining UNESCO would be dangerous for our heritage"

SPC monastery Visoki Decani Abbot Sava Janjic has told B92 that Pristina's membership in UNESCO would be very dangerous for the Serb cultural heritage.

Source: B92
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"It is a very dangerous situation in which the future of our heritage, of our entity and all that we have comes under a big question mark," Janjic said.

He added he was very concerned primarily because the Kosovo government, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Petrit Selimi, refuses any discussion in the Brussels dialogue, which Serbia requested, wishing to talk in an open dialogue about all issues, including that of cultural heritage.

The abbot of the Serbian Orthodox Monastery (SPC) in Kosovo told B92 that claims of that Albanians that Visoki Decani are a part of the heritage, that is - that the monastery was built of Albanians - is in the service of politics, populism and does not demonstrate the good will.

"We have seen the withdrawal of recent draft legislation for cultural heritage and strategies for cultural heritage, which were drawn by Kosovo Albanians without international representatives, precisely becazse of their discriminatory nature, because the entire cultural property in Kosovo and Metohija is turned into the property of the government of Kosovo."

Janjic added there was numerous evidence in the monastery to refute such Albanian claims.

"There are so many documents, historical data in Visoki Decani, that volumes of books could be written, more than about the entire history of the Albanian people. We have a collection of Ottoman manuscripts and firmans that is the largest in Kosovo. I don't think any mosque has that kind of collection of firmans that from 1506, during the time of Sultan Bayezid II, guaranteed the monastery's rights, protection and land."

According to him, whatever the decision regarding the request of Kosovo to gain membership in UNESCO turns out to be, all the churches will remain Serbian Orthodox churches.

"Whether or not they will get it, we cannot know. But one thing is that our churches will remain Serbian Orthodox no matter what happens. But they will not be a training ground for political promotion of those who want to take away our identity, our freedom, our rights. And for as long as we are in these holy places, it will be possible to enter and take photographs only with our permission and with our consent. Otherwise, I hope they won't use force."

The Visoki Decani abbot also said that cooperation with Kosovo institutions does not currently exist.

"We have already stopped cooperation with Kosovo institutions and we can talk to them only after the talks in Brussels. It is up to them to show whether they will by joining UNESCO be occupiers of Christian holy shrines in Kosovo and Metohija, present themselves as such before the world, or simply show that Kosovo is moving towards a more civilized and cultured future. The way they have been going, I'm not quite sure they will be able to convince people in Europe that by attempting to occupy Serbian Orthodox Church facilities, by changing their identity, that they could gain sympathy for entry in the future to another organization."

Abbot Janjic said that the brotherhood of the monastery was facing constant threats and verbal abuse.

"Young people no longer shout 'KLA', but 'Allahu Akbar'. This is unfortunate. The monastery has faced this for centuries, we will stay here. What I heard from the highest representatives of NATO is that protection of the monastery be further enhanced. If the Albanians want to enter into a conflict with NATO, let them go ahead, but I think they will not benefit from it."

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