BETAWEEK (E) July 6 - skriver
om Fader Sava:
A Career: Father
DIPLOMAT IN PRIEST'S ROBES
and until two years ago anonymous monk of the Visoki Decani
Monastery in Kosovo, Father Sava Janjic, with the culmination of
the Kosovo crisis, became one of the most renowned
representatives of the Serb community in that province, who with
his bold and persistent advocacy for democratic solutions, moral
and intellectual superiority, earned an undoubted authority among
the international community and the respect of moderate Albanians
Finding himself in a situation
unparalleled to any a Serb priest had found himself in during
recent Serb history, Father Sava, together with his spiritual
father, Bishop Artemije of Raska and Prizren, preached
reconciliation, common sense and Christian charity during the
bloody ethnic war in Kosovo in 1998-1999, condemning crimes and
aiding the innocent population, regardless of their nationality.
Immediately after the NATO
intervention against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the
withdrawal of the Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, he was the first
to openly speak of the violence and "horrible crimes"
committed against Albanian civilians, directly accusing Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic.
"I want to say that
there were various armed formations, which unfortunately had a
hand in the mass expulsion of the population, which in the
majority of cases was not running from the bombs, but as a result
of systematic expulsion, plunder of property and other forms of
violence of which we now daily find traces for which the
unfortunate Serb people in Kosovo now have to foot the bill,"
said Father Save in an interview to the NIN weekly in July 1999.
At that time he said that
those who committed the crimes had to be first taken "before
a court of their own people, and only afterward before an
international court," adding that such acts must not remain
unpunished, because "they represent a huge disgrace and
shame perpetrated against everything that is chaste and holy
among the Serb people."
At the same time, however, he
warned that UNMIK and KFOR were "facing defeat because they
had not succeeded in creating a multi-ethnic Kosovo," since
"hundreds of Serbs had been killed and kidnapped, thousands
of houses had been burned, and more than 180,000 people had been
The fact that together with
Bishop Artemije his political engagement centered on the Serb
National Council in Gracanica,
attempting to establish
cooperation with the U.N. mission and KFOR in order to find ways
to protect the Serbs remaining in Kosovo and facilitate the
return of those who fled, was enough for the authorities in
Belgrade and the political leaders of the Serbs in northern
Kosovo to label him a "traitor," one of "Kouchner's
Serbs" and "the shame of Orthodoxy and the Church."
The rage of the
internationally isolated government of President Milosevic is
especially insisted by the numerous diplomatic missions of the
leaders of the Gracanica-based Serb National Council, during
which they have met with most of the senior officials of the EU
and U.S. Father Sava plays a very significant role during those
The belief that cooperation
with UNMIK is the only way Serbs can survive in Kosovo, however,
was not an obstacle of his ability to fiercely criticize the
international community for its inability to protect the Serb
population from the not infrequent attacks by Albanian
"For the Serb community
in Kosovo, the war is not over. After the official end of the
war, our people continue to suffer, to be systematically
irradicated, kidnapped and our churches and monasteries
destroyed. These are not simple criminal acts. This is organized
ethnic cleansing of the Serbs and that must come under the
authority of The Hague-based Tribunal," he said in June of
this year after meeting with the International Criminal
Tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte.
Although as a member of the
Gracanica-based Council he had met on numerous occasions with
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other senior U.S.
officials, after the wave of violence in June he blamed U.S.
policies of "being behind Albanian terrorism in Kosovo"
and the U.S. of being "a passive observer, who tolerates
what is happening."
"The aim of U.S. policy
in Kosovo is not the creation of a multiethnic and tolerant
society, but the creation of a greater Albanian state, based on
terrorism," he assessed at the time. Father Sava believes
that the greatest responsibility for the misfortunes of Kosovo
lies with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, whose
"irresponsible policies and violence led to the war."
"Behind it Milosevic's
regime has left ruins, mass graves, robbed homes and poor
defenseless Serbs now paying for deeds of his generals," he
He sees the role of the
Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo as steering the political
process "towards a direction that will allow the survival of
our people and the creation of better living conditions," so
that "once legal and legally elected democratic institutions
are established," the Church can withdraw from politics.
"The Serb Church has said
what is needed: the regime of President Milosevic must forever
leave Serbia and allow the establishment of a contemporary
democratic society. On the contrary, the damnation that has
followed the Serb people for years with the Milosevic regime will
continue to sow the seed of evil in Serbia and Montenegro,"
said Father Sava in an interview to the Danas daily in March of
He did not shy away from
asking the Serb Patriarch Pavle to "apologize to the Serb
people" for attending a Republic Day reception hosted by
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on November 29, 1999.
"The actions of his
Holiness, and especially of his 'almighty' counsel, Episcope
Irinej of Backa, who regularly takes him before Milosevic, thus
scandalizing our people. In the past few years some episcopes
have failed to recognize the times in which we are living and
have allowed a godless regime to use the Church as its instrument
to meet its political ends and maintain its authority,"
assessed Father Sava in January 2000.
Father Sava says that an
unfortunate mixture of events forced him into "political and
national" activities, which is exactly what he wanted to
avoid when he joined the order of monks.
Sava Janjic was born in
Dubrovnik on Dec. 7, 1965. He graduated from elementary and
secondary school in Trebinje. He studied English and Literature
from 1985 to 1989 at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. He was
received by the Crna Reka Monastery near Novi Pazar as a novice
in 1989, while Bishop Artemije was the prior of the monastery. He
became a monk on Nov. 14, 1990. He came to the Visoki Decani
Monastery in 1992, together with Bishop Artemije, and stayed
there until the end of the war in Kosovo, in June 1999.
He has been Bishop Artemije's
personal secretary since 1998, and with the outbreak of major
conflicts in Kosovo, in that same year, he became known as a
result of the internet domain
http://www.decani.yunet.com/home.html, where he published news and various views of the Kosovo
crisis. Foreign journalists, among whom he is very popular, have
given him the nickname "Cybermonk." Besides the web
site, he also edits a news bulletin on the net, Kosovo Daily
News, which has more than 1,000 visitors per day.
He was soon allowed to preform
church rites as a monk and in January 1999 he was promoted to
In June 1999, together with
Bishop Artemije, he transferred to the Gracanica Monastery, where
he is today the spokesman of the Serb National Council.
He is a member of the Interim
Council of Kosovo, the Joint Committee for the return of refugees
and the Board of the independent Serb radio station.
He translates church
literature from the English and Greek languages. He speaks
English and Greek, and passable German.