news 16 Sep 16

Pristina Students Demand Orthodox Church Demolition

A group of students at Pristina University has demanded that a Serbian Orthodox church that stands on the university campus should be demolished or turned into student facilities.

Die Morina
The Orthodox church on the Pristina University campus. Photo: BIRN.

A group of students from Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Pristina University sent a letter to local media on Friday calling for the demolition or repurposing of the church whose construction began during Slobodan Milosevic’s rule in the 1990s.

“As this building was built in the time of Milosevic’s regime, right in the courtyard of the university campus, we express our deep indignation about why nothing has yet been done by the Republic of Kosovo to destroy that building, or turning it into a type of building that will serve the students of the University of Pristina ‘Hasan Pristina’ for their studies, such as a library,” said the letter.

The students also said that renewed construction work on the unfinished church, preparations for which started on Thursday, should stop permanently.

“We believe that this construction only started to raise inter-ethnic tensions, therefore we have not taken any action yet, but if it continues in the coming days, we will react as Kosovo’s Albanians students always have done, with various [protest] actions and student protests,” the letter warned.

The students said that they are not against any religion or religious building, but against what they called the “degradation” of the university.

Serbian Orthodox Church representatives in Kosovo started cleaning the church on Thursday, but their work was stopped by the Pristina municipality’s inspection office, which claimed they did not have the proper permit for it.

The cleaning was organised by local Serbs and the church after unknown perpetrators put tyres in the building and set fire to them on September 9.

The fire didn’t do any significant damage to the building, but the Serbian Orthodox Church and local Serbs called the attack shameful and urged the Kosovo authorities to find the perpetrators.

Construction of the church started in the mid-1990s, when Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic was in power and attempting to consolidate Serbian control over what was then its province of Kosovo.

It has remained unfinished since the war for independence in Kosovo ended in 1999.

In July, an excavation by forensic experts failed to find any human remains at a suspected mass grave close to the church.

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