Religion


Serbia: Controversial archbishop starts hunger strike




Belgrade, 28 August (AKI) - A controversial Serbian Orthodox prelate, Archbishop Filaret, on Tuesday went on hunger strike after he was banned for the fourth time by Montenegro's authorities from entering the country. He is reportedly on a list of 44 individuals alleged to be helping fugitives accused by UN's Hague-based war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Filaret, whose Mileseva diocese covers southwest Serbia and a part of northern Montenegro, was to hold religious rites in the Montenegrin town of Pljevlja, but was stopped at a border crossing by Montenegro police.

The archbishop's earlier attempts to cross to Montenegro, where his diocese has some 70,000 believers, have also been blocked.

Filaret rejected the accusations that he has assisted war crimes indictees, saying he didn’t know where the main fugitives, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his general Ratko Mladic were hiding, claiming that Montenegro was violating his human and religious rights.

Karadzic and Mladic are among five remaining fugitives accused by the UN tribunal of war crimes and genocide against Muslims during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 civil war.

"I don’t know where they are, but they are in my heart because I’m a Christian,” Filaret told Serbian media.

Montenegro's authorities claim they are acting on instructions from the UN tribunal and won’t allow the archbishop to enter the country as long as he’s on the list.

"Shame on you, I didn’t come here to hold political speeches, but to pray with my people,” Filaret yelled at a cordon of Montenegro policemen who blocked his entry.

He then camped at a border crossing, saying he was beginning a hunger strike and would take only water and medicine, until his rights were restored.

He said he is aware that hunger strike was not a Christian way of fighting and had opted for it with a “heavy heart.”

“From today, my health and physical wellbeing are in the hands of Montenegro,” he stated.

Filaret has challenged the UN tribunal to prosecute him if it has proof he has abetted fugitive war crimes indictees, or to take him off its list.  

Filaret does not hide his sympathies for Serb war crimes indictees, saying they only defended their people against Muslim domination during the bloody 1990s Balkan wars.


 

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