Pro-Serbs rally in Mon­tene­gro against new re­li­gious law

Antelope Valley Press - - Religion - By PREDRAG MILIC

POD­GOR­ICA, Mon­tene­gro — Hun­dreds of proSerb op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers on Thurs­day staged an all-day protest against a law on re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties that they say will strip the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church of its prop­erty.

Dozens of riot of­fi­cers used metal bar­ri­ers to pre­vent the crowd from reach­ing the par­lia­ment build­ing where law­mak­ers de­bated the bill op­posed by the Ser­bian church.

Po­lice sealed off cen­tral Pod­gor­ica early Thurs­day. They said they banned the rally by the par­lia­ment build­ing be­cause it hadn’t been an­nounced in ad­vance.

No in­ci­dents were re­ported as the pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church priests, held prayers and sang re­li­gious songs. Sep­a­rately, proSerb pro­test­ers blocked roads in other parts of the coun­try, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

The draft law says re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties would need to pro­duce ev­i­dence of own­er­ship of their prop­erty from be­fore 1918, when Mon­tene­gro joined a Balkan king­dom.

The Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church says the law will strip it of its prop­erty, in­clud­ing me­dieval monas­ter­ies and churches. The gov­ern­ment has de­nied that.

In a state­ment, the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church in Mon­tene­gro urged calm and said it will com­plain to in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions be­cause of what it called a “bru­tal threat to the free­dom of re­li­gion in Mon­tene­gro.”

Prime Min­is­ter Dusko Markovic met with Bishop Am­filo­hije, the head of the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church in Mon­tene­gro, in an ap­par­ent bid to ease the ten­sions.

Bishop Am­filo­hije said af­ter the meet­ing that the church is de­mand­ing the gov­ern­ment post­pone the par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure un­til af­ter Ortho­dox Christ­mas on Jan. 7.

Markovic said he sought to as­sure the bishop that the law wasn’t di­rected against the Ser­bian church and that there is no “hid­den agenda” be­hind it.

Mon­tene­gro’s pop­u­la­tion of around 620,000 is pre­dom­i­nantly Ortho­dox Chris­tian and the main church is the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church. A sep­a­rate Mon­tene­grin Ortho­dox Church isn’t rec­og­nized by other Ortho­dox Chris­tian churches.

Mon­tene­gro’s pro-West­ern pres­i­dent has ac­cused the Ser­bian Ortho­dox Church of pro­mot­ing proSerb poli­cies and seek­ing to un­der­mine the coun­try’s state­hood since it split from much larger Ser­bia in 2006.

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