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2000-03-21 00:19
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Only human contact can ease Kosovo tension, says Orthodox
'cyber-monk'
ENI-00-0097

By Bjarke Larsen
Gracanica, Kosovo, 17 March (ENI)--Father Sava Janjic is one of
the very few advocates of reconciliation and peaceful
co-existence in Kosovo.

During the Nato bombings, which began a year ago on 23 March
1999, Sava became world-famous as the "cyber-monk", thanks to his
internet site (www.decani.yunet.com) on which he not only
informed the cyber-community world-wide about what was happening
in Kosovo but also pleaded with all sides in the conflict to
negotiate a solution.

Kosovo's famous monastery at Decani, where he then lived, gave
shelter, food and clothing to many ethnic Albanian refugees
forced to flee the violence of Serbian soldiers and
paramilitaries, setting an example for others in the midst of
atrocities.

But very few followed that example, however, and Sava is
pessimistic about the future.

He told ENI, during a recent visit by journalists to Kosovo
arranged by the World Council of Churches in Geneva, that for
Kosovo's Serbian citizens the situation was worse today than
immediately after the arrival of the KFOR, the international
peace-keeping force, last year.

Sava was speaking to ENI at the monastery where he now lives, in
Grajinica, 15 kilometres from Pristina, Kosovo's main city.

Following KFOR's arrival in Kosovo at the end of 11 weeks of
intensive bombing by Nato forces, ethnic Albanians, angry at the
destruction and carnage inflicted on them, forced tens of
thousands of Serbs out of the province.

Sava, who has spoken of the need by Serbs here to recognise the
injustices perpetrated against the ethnic Albanians, complained
to ENI that "the presence of 50 000 KFOR soldiers from the best
armies in the world, as well as several dozen human rights
non-governmental organisations, have not been able to protect
us".

With the exception of the town of Metrovica and the northern
part of Kosovo bordering on Serbia, the Serbs remaining in Kosovo
are confined to a few, all-Serbian villages across the region.
The southern city of Prizren, for example, used to be home to 10
000 Serbs. Now it has only 80, and half of them have taken refuge
in the town's Orthodox seminary. There they live like prisoners,
guarded for their own protection by KFOR guards 24 hours a day,
surrounded by barbed wire and sandbags, and escorted by at least
two heavily armed soldiers whenever they go shopping.

"We want to remain because we live in the hope of a better
future," Father Miron, who is in charge of the Prizren seminary,
told ENI. "Man has to hope in order to survive, but most people
here are very scared."

All of Kosovo's Serbian Orthodox churches, monasteries and other
church buildings have similar protection, as do the few Serbs
living outside the all-Serbian enclaves.

"More than 80 Serb churches and monasteries have been destroyed
or desecrated since the arrival of KFOR," Sava said. "From the
pattern of destruction, we can see that it is neither revenge nor
done for religious reasons. It is a systematic destruction of
everything non-Albanian in Kosovo, carried out by extremists from
Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA."

Sava, who regularly receives death threats from Serb extremists
opposed to his moderate views, believes that the war broke out
because there was no contact between Serbs and Albanians. "One
side does not understand the sufferings of the other, they do not
hear the wishes for dialogue," he told ENI. "Spiritually
speaking, we are well aware of what has to be done, but we need
support from the outside to make the first, precious contacts."

Gradually, that contact is beginning. On 8 February Kosovo's
religious leaders - Muslims, Serbian Orthodox, and clergy from
the small Roman Catholic community - issued a "Statement of
Shared Moral Commitment", condemning all violence and calling for
the shared moral values of the three religious communities here
to "serve as an authentic basis for mutual esteem, co-operation
and free common living in the entire territory of Kosovo".

The statement, however, stopped short of asking for forgiveness
for past wrongs and urging reconciliation. Instead it stated that
"we call on all people of good will to take responsibility for
their own acts".

Admission of guilt - or rather failure to do so - is perhaps one
of the main stumbling blocks on the road to peace and
reconciliation. The majority Muslim community wants the Serbian
Orthodox Church to take a bold step forward, to repent the crimes
committed by Serbs and to ask for forgiveness on their behalf.
The Orthodox Church claims it has already done so on many
occasions and says that it is now up to the Islamic leaders to do
more to curb Albanian extremism and help to create a political
climate to allow civilian Serbs who fled to return.

However, it is likely to take years to overcome the mutual
distrust. KFOR officials have said that the international force
will have to stay here for at least another five years. Some
observers in Kosovo believe the figure might as well be 50 years.