Sunday, April 27, 2008

Church opposition to Kosovo independence

Friday, 25th April 2008. 7:16pm
By: George Conger.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church has denounced the cession of Kosovo as unjust and a violation of Serbia’s cultural, social and political integrity.

“In these times of Easter joy and the divine mercy for all, the Serbian Orthodox Church especially dwells on human injustice and violence of the power-wielders over Kosovo and Metohija, over Serbia, and the entire Serb nation,” His Holiness Patriarch Paul of Belgrade said in his Easter Pastoral. Released on April 19, the pastoral letter will be read in Serbian Churches on April 27 --- Easter Sunday in the Orthodox Church calendar.

Paul’s call for justice for Serbian Kosovars resonates across the Serbian political spectrum with pro-Western, Slavophile and the former Communist parties rejecting Kosovo’s Feb 18 unilateral declaration of independence. However, the nation’s political leaders are divided over how to respond to the crisis.

Elected president on Feb 3, Tadic’s coalition government led by his Democratic Party (DS) collapsed on March 8, in the wake of mass demonstrations in Belgrade over Kosovo. Tadic lost the confidence of his coalition partner, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) forcing new elections set for May 11.

The pro-Western Tadic has argued that Serbia’s future lies in closer ties to the EU, while Kostunica's democrats have demanded the return of Kosovo before Serbia joins the EU. The opposition radicals --- the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) led by ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic and the Socialist Party of Serbia formerly led by the late Slobodan Milosevic --- have called for closer ties with Moscow, rejecting the EU.

All of the leading Serbian political parties have rejected Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence --- which has been endorsed by the EU and the US, but rejected by Russia and China. However, Tadic has argued that adopting anti-Western policies are shortsighted, as it would cut off EU aid for Serbia, and prevent Serbia from having a say in the future of an independent Kosovo.

Tadic’s democrats and the radicals are polling even in the run-up to the General Elections, prompting most analysts to argued that Kostunica’s democrats will hold the balance of power in any coalition government.

While remaining above the political fray, Patriarch Paul’s Easter message underscores the Serbian rejectionist line. "Kosovo is an integral part of the life of every Christian Orthodox Serb," the pastoral letter said.

The "creators of this historic injustice [Kosovo independence] have inflicted on the Serb people a pain and suffering that, in spite of everything, points the way to the unique message of the suffering and salvation on Calvary,” Paul said.

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