News 29 Aug 14

Kosovo Protesters Stop Serbs From Attending Church

Several hundred Kosovo Albanians protesting about missing persons from the conflict of the 1990s prevented a busload of Serbs from attending a church service in western Kosovo.

Nektar Zogjani

Kosovo minister Dalibor Jevtic condemned the protest.

Photo: Beta.

Around 400 Kosovo Albanians protesting about missing persons from the Kosovo war blocked roads in the village of Mushtisht, near Suhareka in western Kosovo, on Thursday, preventing Serbs from visiting a church.

Dalibor Jevtic, outgoing Returns and Communities Minister in the Kosovo government, condemned the blockade. Such acts "do not lead Kosovo society towards better cohabitation between the communities but rather represent a setback.

"If you want everyone in Kosovo to be equal, then we need to have equality between the communities and work in a completely different way," the minister told the Telegrafi news portal.

The Serbs, mainly refugees from the Kosovo conflict who came back from Serbia to celebrate a Serbian Orthodox Church holiday, were forced to go to a church in another village for the ceremonies.

The protesters said they wanted to highlight the issue of missing persons from the Kosovo conflict of the late 1990s.

They held placards reading “Where are the missing persons of Mushtisht?” and “There is no room for criminals in Mushtisht”.

Police said around 150 Serbs came by bus to Mushtisht to attend a service in the Church of the Holy Virgin.

Blocked from reaching the church, “the police had to escort them to the village of Zoqishte, Suhareka municipality, to observe their religious ceremony,” police said.

“After that, they headed back to Serbia without any additional trouble,” the police said.

Police noted that they had only given permission for 57 pilgrims to come for the visit.

Kosovo's outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister, Petrit Selimi, said he undertood the anger felt by many locals about missing persons, some of whom he suspected were dumped in mass graves in Serbia.

"One of the billboards of the protesters says, 'Where are the missing [persons] of Mushtisht? Probably hidden in a mass grave in Serbia," Selimi said in a tweet exchange with Fr Sava Janjic, a leader of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.

Missing persons remains a live issue on both sides of the ethnic divide in Kosovo. Around 1,700 people are still listed as missing as a result of the conflict.

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