Wednesday, February 21, 2024
 
 

Serbia accused of threatening peace in Montenegro

EPA-EFE/BORIS PEJOVIC
Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro believers take part in a protest rally in Podgorica, Montenegro, 26 December 2019. Members of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro are protesting against a controversial new law on religion, which the church has called a plot to strip it of its property. Montenegro's government proposed a new bill on religion requiring all religious communities, including Catholic and Orthodox churches, to register their immovable assets as state property. The law also states that religious communities can only retain their assets if they can produce evidence of the right to ownership, triggering allegations from the Serbian Church that the government plans to dispute its holdings.

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120 officials, academics, and cultural figures in the Balkans have signed an online petition that warns of regional “threats to peace” from Belgrade.
The move comes amid ongoing protests against a new controversial law on religion in Montenegro.
The law includes a register of all religious objects owned by Montenegro before it became part of the former Yugoslavia federation. Under the law, religious communities have to provide evidence of ownership to retain their properties.
Supporters of the Serbian Orthodox Church say that the law will strip the church of its property, while supporters of the law accuse the Serbian Orthodox Church of attempting to undermine the country’s statehood.
The petition is named “Appeal against Belgrade’s threats to peace In Montenegro and the region”. The signatories include the former presidents of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as former Yugoslav leaders, Serbian lawmakers, and journalists.
“We felt the need to remind ourselves of some of the things that happened in the 1990s and to point out that they are now happening in a similar scenario”, said the president of the Helsinki Committee for human rights in Serbia.
After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Serbia and Montenegro formed a federative state, called Serbia and Montenegro, until they each became independent with a referendum in 2006. However, about 30% of Montenegro’s population still identify as Serbs.
The open letter accuses “Serbian extreme nationalists” of using the new law as an attempt at a coup d’etat:
“The Republic of Montenegro is a target of attempted destabilization by violent means: its peace, territorial integrity, constitutional order, the rule of law, citizens’ equality, and equal status of all churches and religious communities are under threat”, the letter reads.

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