The Serb Church and the Stepinac Syndrome

In Bosnia, the Serb Orthodox Church made the same mistake the Catholic Church made in Croatia during World War II; it became a servant of religious nationalist militancy. In many instances, Christian Serb clergy have supported the extremists who carried out the genocide in Bosnia and have given ritual and symbolic support to the programs of ethnic expulsion and destruction of mosques,

In the late 1980s, the Serb Orthodox Church collaborated with academics and literati to highlight the motif of Muslims as Christ killers and race traitors. It was a motif that came to dominate the commemoration of the 600th anniversary of the Kosovo battle. Supporters of the Republika Srpska memorized and quoted Njegos's Mountain Wreath and even more violent religious epics as they planned and carried out their genocide. Verses from these epics glorifying the extermination of Muslim civilians were being posted on the Internet even as various villages and cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina were being "cleansed" of Muslims and all evidence of Muslim civilization was eradicated.[19] Militiamen involved in the atrocities wore patches depicting the battle of Kosovo and received medals with the name of Milos Obilic, the assassin of Sultan Murat.[20] In an Orthodox monastery

near Sarajevo, a Serb priest blessed the followers of the ethnofascist warlord Vojislav Seselj, after the names of the towns associated with the worst atrocities against Muslims were read aloud in triumph.[21] The chief of police of Banja Luka—the site of massive atrocities against Muslims carried out with the complicity of the Banja Luka police—received a delegation of Greek Church leaders in honor of Saint Michael the Archangel, the "Patron Saint of the Republika Srpska Ministry of Internal Affairs."[22]

When the city of Foca was purged of its Muslim population and all traces of their existence had been dynamited and bulldozed, the name of the city was changed to Srbinje (Serb Place). More generally, the term Srbinje has been shouted at Muslims during killings and expulsions throughout Bosnia ("Serb Place!" "Serb Place!"). The renamed Foca was celebrated with visits by high Church officials. A university professor from Sarajevo, Vojislav Maksimovic, explained that "the [Serb] fighters from Foca and the region were worthy defenders of Serbianness and of Orthodoxy."[23] In Trebinje, an Orthodox priest led the way in expelling a Muslim family and seizing their home. Trebinje's 500-year-old mosque and elegant Turkish-style buildings were burned and its Muslim population killed and expelled immediately following celebrations of the feast day of St. Sava, the founder of the Serbian Church. Mirko Jovic, leader of the White Eagles terror squad, called for a "Christian, Orthodox Serbia with no Muslims and no unbelievers."[24]

While still an abbot, Serbian Orthodox Bishop Atanasije of Herzegovina characterized the Islamic architectural style of homes with interior courtyards enclosed by walls as a sign of Islamic "primitivism" from "Bihac to Baghdad to Belgrade."[25] The official Serbian Orthodox Church journal promoted the

writings and the cult of personality of militia leader Vuk Draskovic, a major instigator of anti-Muslim atrocities; another Serb Church publication condemned those who would not join the armed struggle against the "evil forces that are opposed to God (and by the same token to humanity)."[26] The sustained attacks on Muslims by Serb Orthodox clergy were based on global stereotypes of Muslims as a people; the complex and variegated nature of Bosnian Islam was ignored. Metropolitan Christopher, a Serb Church leader in the United States, gave a list of stereotypes about Muslims, implying they were all like the radical followers of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. When someone asked him whether Muslims in Bosnia were Sunnites or Shiites, he said: "I don't know very much about Muslims in Bosnia, but they are Muslims."[27] Vasilije, Bishop of the Zvornik-Tuzla area, offered up the bizarre notion that for Muslims in Bosnia, the more unbelievers they kill, the closer they get to heaven.[28] Religious stereotypes met psychological stereotypes; Jovan Raskovic, a mentor to Radovan Karadzic, claimed that Muslim ablutions before prayer showed the "anal-analytic" nature of Muslims as a people.[29]

A worldwide Serb Orthodox campaign was mounted to finance a massive new cathedral in Belgrade. Serb Orthodox Church officials promoted the project with constant references to the fact that this church was to be constructed on the very spot on which Ottoman Turks had burned the bones of St. Sava, the founder of the Serbian Church.[ ] Serbian religious leaders lauded those Serbian officials responsible for designing and implementing the policy of "ethnic cleansing." On Orthodox Easter 1993, Metropolitan Nikolaj, the highest-ranking Serb Orthodox Church official in Bosnia, stood between Radovan Karadzic and

General Ratko Mladic and spoke of the Bosnian Serbs under their leadership as "following the hard road of Christ." Karadzic suggested the problem in Bosnia could be solved if Muslims would just convert to Serb Orthodoxy.[ ]

What Serb dissidents have called the clericalist faction of Serb militants is clearly dramatized in the figure of Arkan, who is both a friend and ally of Karadzic and a protégé of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. After the Russian neo-Nazi Vladimir Zhirinovsky had embraced the highest-ranking living Nazi SS officer in Austria, he was given an adoring welcome in Arkan's stronghold of Bijeljina in eastern Bosnia. Arkan led Zhirinovsky on a tour, showing him the parking lot where a mosque once stood.[32]

Serb priests waved incense and offered blessings over a boxing match at a casino owned by Arkan. Serb clergy presided over Arkan's 1995 marriage, staged in public with great fanfare, to a Serb popular music star by the name of Ceca. For the ceremony, attended by Christian Orthodox bishops from Serb-controlled Bosnia and Croatia, Arkan wore an old Montenegrin warrior costume festooned with a huge cross, as his supporters waved paper flags with an Orthodox cross and nationalist slogans. Ceca was dressed as "The Maid of Kosovo" (Kosovka djevojka ), the Mary Magdalene figure who nurses the Kosovo martyrs as they lie dying on the battlefield. Of the atrocities in Bosnia, Arkan said: "We are fighting for our faith, the Serbian Orthodox Church."[33]

Orthodox Christian clergy sit as elected members of the parliament of the Republika Srpska. When General Ratko Mladic, indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal on multiple counts of genocide, came under criticism, the Serb clergy rallied to his defense. Yet the Orthodox Church has been slow to minis-

ter to the Serbs in Bosnian government areas, where churches are intact but priests are lacking. A Serb priest teaches that Croats and Muslims have a genocide plan against Serbs and that "one who forgives is worse than one who did the bad deed in the first place."[34] Orthodox Bishop Atanasije attacked those who criticized expulsions of Muslim civilians and the burning of mosques in the Herzegovinan town of Trebinje.[ ]

In 1994, negotiators for the "Contact Group" (Britain, France, the U.S., Russia, and Germany) suggested a peace plan that would give to the 32 percent of Bosnians who were Serb 49 percent of the land, including the areas on which they had carried out the most systematic "ethnic cleansing"; the Serbian Orthodox Church attacked the peace plan as unfair, to Serbs.[36] Both Metropolitan Nikolaj and Radovan Karadzic demanded that Sarajevo be the capital of the Republika Srpska. Karadzic stated that Sarajevo had "always" been a Serb city; since Slavic Muslims were originally Serbs who had converted to Islam, Serbs were "there" first and Slavic Muslims had no rights to Sarajevo. Nikolaj advanced the same specious argument.[37]

Patriarch Pavle, the leader of the worldwide Serbian Orthodox Church, had a different view. Pavle claimed that Serbs were native to Bosnia-Herzegovina, whereas the Muslims had arrived with the Ottoman invasion. Pavle's confusion of religion and ethnic identity was outdone only by the racial theory of Serb religious nationalist Dragos Kalajic. Kalajic claimed that Slavic Muslims did not belong to Europe, that their culture was an unconscious expression of "semi-Arabic subculture," and that the Slavic Muslims of Bosnia inherited an inferior "special gene" passed on by the Ottomans from North African Arabs.[38]

In fact, the ancestors of both the Bosnian Serbs and the Bos-

nian. Muslims had lived in the area long before the Ottoman conquest. Sarajevo was established by the Ottomans as a major economic, cultural, and political center. But the mythologized history and racial logic of Karadzic and Nikolaj, and their alternate version promulgated by Patriarch Pavle, are based on claims that Slavic Muslims had no right to land in Bosnia because they lacked ethnoreligious priority. People whose ancestors arrived with the ancestors of their Serb neighbors were relegated to a permanent alienness and denied any claim to existence in the region.

After the revelations of the killing camps, organized rape, and systematic destruction of mosques, the Serbian Orthodox Church led the way in denial. The church's government body, the Holy Episcopal Synod, stated: "In the name of God's truth and on the testimony from our brother bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina and from other trustworthy witnesses, we declare, taking full moral responsibility, that such camps neither have existed nor exist in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina." The Synod also wrote a protest against the European indifference to genocide in Bosnia—the alleged genocide against Serbs. The document was composed in May 1992 while the Serb armies were rampaging triumphantly through Bosnia and hundreds of thousands of non-Serbs were being killed and driven from their homes, before the eyes of local Serbian Orthodox priests and bishops.[39]

Some have defended the Serb Church leadership by pointing to its criticism of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic. Serb Church criticism of Milosevic only began, however, when he retreated from the extreme nationalist position he held up until 1994. Bishop Atanasije of Herzegovina urged Serbs not to "ca-

pitulate to the world as Milosevic has. The vultures from the West will not get our signature [on the peace plan]."[40] While some Orthodox Christian leaders have offered a general condemnation of nationalism as a "sign of apostasy,"[41] they have refused to condemn specific crimes committed in the name of Serb Orthodoxy; others have supported Serb extremists. As the International Criminal Tribunal conducted an investigation that would lead to the indictment of Radovan Karadzic on multiple counts of genocide, the Greek Orthodox Church appointed Karadzic to the 900-year-old "Knights' Order of the First Rank of Saint Dionysius of Xanthe," declaring him "one of the most prominent sons of our Lord Jesus Christ working for peace."[42]

Some Orthodox Christians have appealed to the Serbian Orthodox Church to take a strong stand against the violence in Bosnia.[43] Yet, one of the authors of that appeal defended Patriarch Pavle from his harsher critics by pointing to a letter Pavle wrote condenming the killings of non-Serbs and burning of Catholic churches in Banja Luka.[44] In it Pavle laid the responsibility for the Banja Luka atrocities on refugees from western Slavonia who had fled the Croat army offensive in the spring of 1995. These acts were unjustifiable, he argued, but understandable as acts of refugees in a state of "vengeful despondency." In fact, the killings and destruction of mosques and churches in Banja Luka were organized by Serb civil and military groups at the very start of the occupation of Banja Luka in

April 1992. By the time Pavle expressed his condemnation, all the mosques in the Banja Luka region had been dynamited (a fact he did not mention), and the religious terror had been denounced by international refugee workers for years. The destruction of Catholic churches and the attacks on some Croats may have been carried

out in part by Serbian refugees, but they were carried out as part of a consistent policy of religiously based persecution. To hold refugees from western Slavonia responsible is to refuse to confront the authorities of Banja Luka with the truth about their three-year role in organizing religious persecution.

The editor of the religious journal Orthodoxy (Pravoslavlje) proclaimed that "The patriarch [Pavle] is right. ... It's still too early to tell who's done what to whom. In this war, everyone is guilty."[45] That everyone is guilty in the "war" has been the consistent stance of Slobodan Milosevic. The "everyone is guilty" position is a moral obfuscation. If it is based on a reading of the Christian doctrine of original sin, the question must be raised as to whether such a reading is not to be approached with caution; if everyone is guilty, is anyone really guilty of anything specific? If everyone is guilty, is anything done to any person that is undeserved? Generalized guilt allows a convenient avoidance of the stubborn fact that in genocide, innocents suffer and their suffering is inflicted upon them deliberately.

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