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Christians in the Muslim World

Kosovo: the Ahtisaari proposal from the viewpoint of the religious communities

For the civilian population of the Kosovo these are moments of intense debate concerning the status of its future, which has been signed by the UN negotiator Martti Ahtisaari; a debate which necessarily must include the various local religious communities. The Catholic and Muslim populations in particular - together with the majority of citizens - have raised sever criticisms concerning the unofficial selection of privileges for some and discrimination for others. Ahtissari concedes certain privileges to the Serbian Orthodox community, while he totally excludes the Catholic community which currently accounts for around 3% of the population. Mainly of Albanian origin the latter played an important hinge-role in the conflict between Orthodox Serbs and Albanian Muslims.  

For the civilian population of the Kosovo these are moments of intense debate concerning the status of its future, which has been signed by the UN negotiator Martti Ahtisaari; a debate which necessarily must include the various local religious communities.

 

 

The Catholic and Muslim populations in particular - together with the majority of citizens - have raised sever criticisms concerning the unofficial selection of privileges for some and discrimination for others.

 

 

Ahtissari concedes certain privileges to the Serbian Orthodox community, while he totally excludes the Catholic community which currently accounts for around 3% of the population. Mainly of Albanian origin the latter played an important hinge-role in the conflict between Orthodox Serbs and Albanian Muslims.

 

 

Ahtissari proposes that the orthodox churches and monasteries in the area around the Patriarchate of Pec Peja should be given special status, so much so that not even the Kosovarian authorities are to be allowed to conduct any institutional activities whatsoever in that area, regardless of the fact that the land belongs to the Kosovo State. They are also permitted direct relations with Belgrade and may completely ignore Kosovo administration, while the latter is obliged to give its support when required.

 

 

The Catholic Diocese has expressed its concerns regarding the religious discrimination it is submitted to, however, it has agreed to accept this proposal which it considers to be the only road towards finding a possible solution to the complicated issue concerning the status of Kosovo.

 

 

 

We must not forget that in the past, the various invading forces destroyed many churches throughout Kosovo. The piles of rubble and abandoned foundations are proof enough, and yet the Catholic Kosovarian community has never received any support in documenting these facts. Catholics and Muslims recently joined forces to rebuild two churches, one in the mountain area of Rugova and the other in the Malisheva commune, in an attempt to remember and reclaim the Catholic origins of these areas which bare the scars of violence and persecution. Nevertheless, the authorities do not give these new realities the conjectured protection or special treatment which the Orthodox communities receive.

 

As far as the Islamic community is concerned, it has declared that the privileges conceded to the Orthodox Church may be potentially damaging to the community itself.

 

 

Kosovo's political classes on the whole are very sceptical with regard to this particular aspect. of the Ahtisaari proposal. They have, however come to accept it as a necessary compromise towards resolving the Kosovo issue.

 

The experts have responded to the various objections by declaring that the Ahtisaari proposal was drawn up to guarantee complete freedom of religious expression to the various religious communities, each according to its own traditions. They also state that the current protectionist measures concerning the Orthodox community, as set out in the UN proposal, will not change its future position. Furthermore, an international committee will be set up to monitor the extent to which those provisions are observed and the Kosovo government will be invited to extend similar privileges to other religious communities as well.

 

 

As things stand at the moment, the harmony which has always reigned between the various religious communities in Kosovo may be at risk, as the recent violent, ethnic, non-religious confrontations may lead us to believe that the already tense atmosphere may intensify.

 

 

However, we must not overshadow the natural optimism which is intrinsic to the Kosovo population. They wish to be admitted as members of the EU and hope that this compromise will be a step towards the independence they have much desired.

 

Ahtissari concedes certain privileges to the Serbian Orthodox community, while he totally excludes the Catholic community which currently accounts for around 3% of the population. Mainly of Albanian origin, the latter played an important hinge-role in the conflict between Orthodox Serbs and Albanian Muslims.

 

We must not forget that in the past, the various invading forces destroyed many churches throughout Kosovo. The piles of rubble and abandoned foundations are proof enough, and yet the Catholic Kosovarian community has never received any support in documenting these facts. Catholics and Muslims recently joined forces to rebuild two churches, one in the mountain area of Rugova and the other in the Malisheva commune, in an attempt to remember and reclaim the Catholic origins of these areas which bare the scars of violence and persecution. Nevertheless, the authorities do not give these new realities the conjectured protection or special treatment which the Orthodox communities receive.

 

However, we must not overshadow the natural optimism which is intrinsic to the Kosovo population. They wish to be admitted as members of the EU and hope that this compromise will be a step towards the independence they have much desired.

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