- - Sunday, November 8, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Recently the authorities of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo have filed application for membership in UNESCO. This request is not only legally unacceptable, it is morally and logically absurd.

Let’s look at the facts. Since the end of the armed conflict in Kosovo in June 1999, in spite of the deployed international forces, more than 236 Serbian Orthodox Christian churches and monasteries have been attacked. In the past 15 years more than 150 churches have been demolished, as have 174 religious sites and 33 cultural and historic monuments (some dating to 11th century). Additionally, more than 10,000 icons and ecclesiastical, art and liturgical items have been stolen, and thousands of tombs at Serbian Christian Orthodox cemeteries have been destroyed or damaged.

A decade after the peak of anti-Serbian violence in Kosovo, the OSCE Kosovo Mission’s Report of March 2014, citing information from the very Kosovo Police Service, indicates “that the number of security incidents related to the cultural heritage sites increased in 2011, 2012 and 2013 in comparison to the previous year.” The report also observes that the increased security incidents affect primarily the heritage of the Serbian Orthodox Church, while “the number of arrests and criminal prosecutions in response to security incidents by the Kosovo police and justice is low.”

Particularly worrisome is that fact that some months ago, new graffiti — celebrating the Islamic State — desecrated the premises of the Monastery of Decani, one of the four gems of Serbian culture.

Serbian heritage in Kosovo and Metohija is a direct link to the living history and centuries-long presence of the Serbian people in this territory. These churches and monasteries are not mere tourist attractions, but living places of worship and often shelters for the Serbs who remained in Kosovo. Therefore, attacks on Serbian heritage and attempt to enter UNESCO have more profound and ominous aims.

The cultural and historical identity of Kosovo cannot be built on the falsification of history and on the violent destruction of any trace of the Serbian presence in this territory. Sadly, that is exactly what lies behind Kosovo’s UNESCO aspiration and that is why we are opposing it. UNESCO and its member states must refuse to become an ‘accomplice’ to such crime.

DJERDJ MATKOVIC

Ambassador of Serbia to the United States

Washington

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