Monks refuse to remove Serbian flag from monastery

Published on July 18, 2007, Blic daily

Category: Violence Against Christian Serbs and Their Holy Places

by Z.J.

The brotherhood of Zociste Monastery in Metohija has declined to remove the Serbian flag from their belltower after being asked to do so yesterday by international forces in Kosovo and Metohija. The request to remove the flag was made after Albanian threats that if the monks did not do this, the monastery would be attacked.

Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren said that "if someone is bothered by the flag, then they should intervene" but that the monks would not remove the flag. Members of Austrian KFOR which secures the monastery advised the monks early yesterday morning that the Albanians are threatening to attack the monastery, stating that it is KFOR's task to protect those who are threatened and to calm those who are creating disturbance in Kosovo. They then requested that the flag be removed. Yesterday the Kosovo Government had no comment regarding threats directed at the Serbian Orthodox Church, claiming that they had no knowledge of the matter.

"If the Kosovo Albanians have the right to display the flag of another country - Albania - on their homes and huts, why would Serbs not have the same right to do so on their monastery," said Bishop Artemije. He added that Zociste Monastery is located in its own country of Serbia.

Zociste Monastery was completely dynamited in 1999. However, three years ago the monastery elder, Father Petar (Ulemek), received the blessing of Bishop Artemije to begin rebuilding the holy shrine. The consecration of the renewed church and the return of the holy relics of Unmercenary Physicians Cosmas and Damian after eight years took place on Saturday, the monastery patron saint's day, and gathered some 3,000 Serbs from all parts of Kosovo and central Serbia. Five monks live in the monastery.

Zociste Monastery is currently unique in Kosovo and Metohija in that it is the only restored and consecrated holy shrine out of the approximately 150 that have been destroyed (since) 1999. As well, it was restored largely through individual donations, and unique in that since the first day of the brotherhood's return, it has also received visits from local Albanians who say that they "respect the Unmercenary Physicians".

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